Unrealistic Much?

14 May

https://i0.wp.com/thumbs.dreamstime.com/thumb_69/1151959724yp372c.jpgAuthors are, I guess.

At YA Fiction Fanatics (YAFF – an on-line critique group consisting of myself and other aspiring authors) one of our members posted a link to a teen blog, where the girl went on about how ‘unrealistic’ YA novels are today. And how writers don’t realistically capture the high school experience.

The girl’s spunky, which was great, but the blog prompted thoughts from several of us in the group. After all, no matter our age now (and I’m pretty far from old) we did each go to high school. lol. Even if high school didn’t include a hundred cells in every class.

Basically her thoughts were this. Cliques are not as apparent as novels like to suggest, high school kids tend to be very stressed about school, not just the opposite sex, and college plans exhaust them to NO END. Added on that, sports, work, and texting and she’s down right wiped out. OMG. (Makes me tired just thinking about. J/k. Like I said I’m not that old). In her post she went on to say that the YA novels don’t focus on the truth of 5 hours of homework a night and constant collage plans. (I’m paraphrasing here, these are not her exact words. Well the 5 hours of homework is…maybe that should be in quotations?)

Well anyway, her thoughts prompted a discussion within the group and here’s what we came up with: that it may be possible ‘cliques’ seem less noticeable when your popular. (The fact that the girl had well over 700 subscribers to her blog and over 28 comments on this one post alone, tells me she’s doing okay in that department.) And then there’s the whole how BIG is your school? We, out-of-touch-writers–once students ourselves–have determined that the social cliques might be a bit more obvious in the smaller schools. But since I don’t plan on cyber-stalking to find out what school said teen goes to, I’ll just assume it’s average–whatever average is. lol. (Yes, I know my research efforts are very focused).

Lastly, we writers thought, hmmm, YA FICTION. I’m not sure the girl would be reading so much if we all wrote books about 5 hours of homework a night and college apps. I think maybe some teens prefer unrealistic cliques, love interests, and making the grade with minimal effort. I do have to say though, I don’t think I ever went to school with any werewolves, vampires, mind readers, or the like.

Still, the girls post was fantastic. Most times I don’t think YA writers get across the pressures on teens today, but I think instead we try to offer time away from that stress, if only for 250-300 pages. (TA4N–oh, for those who don’t read text: That’s all for now).

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8 Responses to “Unrealistic Much?”

  1. Cambria Dillon May 14, 2010 at 9:15 am #

    I totally understand what the girl is saying…BUT, you’re absolutely right. When we’re reading and writing YA FICTION, we don’t necessarily want to read or write about all the homework and educational pressures kids find on a day-to-day basis. Not that those things aren’t important or a part of teens lives, but if we did that, not only would we have a pretty flat pace, but it wouldn’t be a saleable or marketable story. This is just my opinion, but teens don’t want to read about their every day life (although I’m sure there are loads that do). My thought is that they want to read more about the stuff that isn’t happening to them. For me, reading is an escape. Whether that escape involves a paranormal world or a realistic one, I’d rather read and be entertained.
    Regarding the cliques issue…maybe there are some schools where the lines between cliques are blurred more than others. But I know there will always be groups. It’s human nature. That doesn’t change once you graduate high school. Even if you take a look at your work place, professional organization, circle of friends, whatever–there are certain people that others naturally gravitate to, thus making them “more popular.” Extroverts will always be more identifiable in a group than an introvert. Take away the high school scene and that will still hold true. Yes, in teen books and movies the lines are more defined and exaggerated because it’s fiction and when creating conflict, the author/director wants to make it as extreme as possible. The greater the conflict, the greater the fall and all that.
    But her blog really did make me think about how I’ll approach my next story because I do think she has a valid point with her observation.
    And WOWZA was my comment loooooooong. 🙂

  2. Vanessa May 14, 2010 at 10:05 am #

    Nice post! I agree. I didn’t (and don’t) want to read a book about real life. (Unless its travel essays, but that’s something different on its own) I doubt that many high schoolers want to either. When I see them reading, they’re reading fantasy and scifi and things to escape pressure.

    The other blog made me think, and I will consider whether or not I’ve written something using movie/book cliches, but including those 5 hours of homework every night? Probably not.

  3. JayceeKaycee May 14, 2010 at 10:58 am #

    We create and read fiction because it’s a more interesting, dramatic version of our real lives. In books, yes- cliques are more prevalent. The “queen bee” is even meaner than her real-life counterpart. The quarterback’s pass is even more heroic than what really happens on the field. That’s fiction. Who wants to read a book about someone who wakes up, goes to class, comes home, eats dinner, studies, and goes to bed? Yawn.

    But there’s plenty of real drama in high school too. I could (and probably will) write a book about my own high school experience- even though I graduated over 20 years ago. I developed an eating disorder after my parents’ divorce, my friend was an alcoholic, and a classmate died during surgery for a sports injury. But for the book, I would make the queen bee even meaner, and I would make the football star even more handsome and heroic.

    Thanks for an interesting post, Rachel. I enjoyed it!

  4. Jennifer Bianco May 14, 2010 at 10:58 am #

    I agree with Vanessa. Reading fiction is about escapism. While I sometimes want to read about realistic fiction, that’s usually realism on a social and emotional level. I want real emotions and reactions but not real life. Walking the dog, doing homework, fighting with your siblings, SATs and such are the very things I want to get away from when I read.

  5. Rebekah May 14, 2010 at 11:54 am #

    Great post! And since we went to a small school, I remember seeing the “cliques” but I think it was mostly like different groupings. For instance, most of the jocks hung out together, the drama kids hung out together, preps, stoners, I mean there were several different groups. And being a cheerleader and in drama club, I kind of hung with whoever I wanted.

    And being a parent now of teenagers, I know that they do more than homework (yes they spend lots of time doing it), but they also go out to sports events, play sports, have bonfires, go to the park, go to haunted houses, etc. Some of that stuff does find it’s way into my stories, but I’m not going to write an entire book about teens doing homework and filling out apps.

    And I agree with Jenn and Vanessa that the whole point is to give teens a “getaway” in a fantasy world–which is why it’s called fiction. I remember as a teen reading a TON of stuff and very few books had anything to do with “real” things. I read L.J. Smith, Christopher Pike, R.L. Stine, Richie Tankersley Cusick, Lois Duncan…and the point is these authors created an escape. Whether it was through using ghosts, or vampires, or a coven of witches it allowed me something that was a step away from the “real world”.

    Yes, we do need to sprinkle in bits and pieces of school/homework, annoying parents, siblings that tick us off because that “IS” reality but at the same time I think it’s nice to have some other things thrown in. Heck, if writers just stuck to those things, there’d be no point in writing because you could live it every day!

  6. Penny Randall May 16, 2010 at 2:13 am #

    I went to a very small girls’ school but even in a place like that there were cliques (I wasn’t in any of them!). I see it in my children’s primary school too. Yes there are dramas in school, of course, and yes, I did five hours homework a night and had unbelievable amounts of pressure on me and that’s why I chose to relax and unwind with books that took me away from all that. Mostly classics, sci fi or horror but in those days we didn’t have the richness of YA literature we do now. But the fact is, I wanted to escape, I remember reading Lord of the Rings, a chapter every night after finishing each evening’s revision for my A levels when I was seventeen and it was perfect for winding down after a long day of schoolwork. That desire to shrug off the realities of everyday life is so deep, and not just through the written medium, we see it in films, on TV, everywhere. People of all ages want to transcend the mundane and that’s what fiction’s all about.

  7. Silke May 18, 2010 at 12:31 pm #

    It’s fiction. 🙂
    What you said applies to *any* fiction. I mean come on, I write romance. If I had my heroine at work 8 hours a day, get home, make dinner, do some housework, do the dishes, and finally veg out in front of the TV… while it would be realistic, it would also make for a very boring book.
    We *know* the reality. We read fiction (regardless of which genre you prefer) to get away from real life – not to be reminded at every turn of a page that we have left the dishes in the sink, the laundry is piling up and the car needs a new suspension.
    There is realism, and there is realistic. My school had cliques.
    The young adults reading the books don’t particularly want to be reminded of the homework they didn’t do, either.

    Btw – love the new look of the site! 🙂

  8. R.M.Gilbert May 18, 2010 at 3:21 pm #

    Thanks for stopping by. Love the comments. Too funny that they are all about as long as the original post. 🙂 Cliques are and always will be around in high school just on different levels I’m thinking.

    Silke, you bring up an excellent point on the adult writing front. I know the last thing I want to read about is laundry…unless that laundry is the key to some great fiction. Like a document the MC should never have seen left in the pants pocket. 🙂 (Glad you like my new digs)

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