08/04/2014

YA Rules That Must Be Obeyed {The Birdie Rules}

I've been thinking a lot about YA books lately. It's a given, since they're pretty much all I read, but I've been thinking more and more about all the similarities that keep cropping up.

No, not every book is the same, but there seems to be a basic set of rules that are always present. So I've re-read some passages from my favourite YA books and done a bit of research and come up with:


(well, not really. But everyone seems to be obeying anyway).


There must be some sort of romance. Because YA is only for chicks and chicks will only read romance, because they all want boyfriends. So make sure your book includes the perfect guy for a teenage girl!


Your love story will be boring if a character doesn't have some sort of trauma. Have them in mourning, or being abused or with parents who hate them. Nobody likes happy people.


One love interest gets old. Better to have two. Or even three. Just ensure they're complete opposites, so the reader can tell them apart. Dramatically different coloured hair helps. And make sure one is fun and quirky, and the other is deep and brooding. Your heroine can't like two guys who are similar. It's just not realistic.


Make sure there are no parents around. We want the story to be about kids and writing about grown-ups is boring. To avoid adult interactions, give the MC an absentee parent. Or a dead parent. Or an abusive parent. Or a parent that is completely Stepford. 
Just no nice parents. Your characters cannot be loved by anyone except their boyfriend or girlfriend.


To keep your character humble, introduce a best friend who is far more outgoing and attractive and who forces the main character into things they don't want to do. This is very representative of real-life friendships.


When you're describing a character's looks, be sure to focus on the colour of their skin. And get specific. If you're struggling to find adjectives, grab a Starbucks menu and take notes.


All rival females must be vapid. You can't have your readers liking someone who isn't the main character! And be sure to slut-shame. A lot. Your character should be a virgin and all those who aren't want to steal the love interest away. God, those bitches.


Eyebrows must be raised a lot. It makes your characters look really cool in their condescension.


Smirking! Guys smirk so often in real life. It's all they do. Smiling totally isn't cool anymore.


If you're writing a dystopian novel, be sure to make everything the government's fault. Modern day readers will associate with that. And dystopians aren't dystopians unless there's a government conspiracy. And unless our heroine is the only one who can take those all-powerful asshats down.


So, what do you guys think? Did I miss any? Are there any YA rules you guys have seen popping up everywhere?


 



Allie is a Pimm's-obsessed reader, who dreams of road tripping over America, learning to surf & becoming fluent in all the languages of her heritage (which, sadly, does not include Elvish). If she's not reading or blogging, you can find her catching up on Teen Wolf, or reigning supreme with Scrabble/Mario Kart. Stalk her on twitter, instagram or goodreads.



45 comments:

  1. Are you being sarcastic? It's hard to tell. XD It pisses me off when the love interest (s) have to be so dramatically different from each other. We're not stupid, I think we could distinguish between them. I see the Bitchy BFF becoming more of a trend than usual. The BFF HAS to be more outgoing, and she has to be much more attractive than the MC, and they have to grow apart at some moment in the story. Gah.
    Great post!
    -

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    1. Yes! The BFF is this perfectly outgoing, gorgeous, slim creature who, even unintentionally, makes the MC feel kind of unworthy. It's like some YA authors can't write real. authentic friendships or something!

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    2. The irony is that I've had a BFF exactly like that. It's clear why she isn't my BFF anymore, right?

      PS, love the article.

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    1. Thanks! :) I was racking my brain trying to think of things I'd seen repeated over and over

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  3. hah, these are great. It's true though, which is a bit of a bummer. Some of these "rules" in books just make it seem like teenagers are stupid and that's not cool. We want more from our YA. I love books that have present parents and/or good friends.

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    1. I love reading about books with loving, caring parents. Honestly, I enjoy the book a whole lot more and it's nice to know the characters have someone to lean on in hard times. I'm sick of reading about bad parents, and having that used as a plot-device to drive love interests closer together.

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  4. This was HILARIOUS and completely true! I'm so over the common tropes found in YA lit these days. I especially loved the 'Starbucks Skinned' bit, P.C. Cast (the author of The House of Night series) should totally read that snippet. Thanks for sharing, made me smile! :)

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    1. I think I could open up my own coffee shop with some of the descriptions of skin-colour I've read in YA lol!

      I'm glad it made you smile :)

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  5. "Nobody likes happy people." LOL. Heck no we don't. We want 'em bleeding, broken, an full of angst. And please. Parents? They need to go. Also: bonus points if the parents get snuffed in an incredibly traumatic way. All we need to add is super-model good looks and the ability to go for days and years without sleep.

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    1. LOL. Oh, yes, the super-model good looks. And the excessive way they insist they're really not pretty to the guy who fancies them! Does anyone actually do that in real life?
      Guy: I like you. You're pretty.
      Girl: What? I'm totally ugly. Why do you like me? You shouldn't like me!

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  6. lols, I love my romance in books :D gimme the feels and swoon every day, all day :D Yeah, the second one is just, blahhhh. Come on! Not every person on this planet is completely broken inside. Yup, since our taste varies so much that of course we have either the class clown or the handsome jock or the nice math nerd fighting for our tension. It's nice to have options, but the people one usually falls for are pretty much alike in real life O.o OMG THE BITCHY BFF!!! I hate those. They're freaking everywhere and they're so annoying. Slut shaming ftw!!! Gimme more, please *eyeroll* ha, yes, because 16 year olds are so freaking awesome that they always mastermind something amazing to outsmart the people behind a country's regime because that's what happens in real life :) though, since fiction is mostly for escape then perhaps it's okay that it's not really believable? I hate winking. JUST STOP OKAY. JUST STOP. I can't stand it. I have only one friend who winks and he does that when he's drunk and trying to hook up with someone :D no one freaking winks that much, but ohhh no! Everyone winks in lit and that is quite a norm these days. To me it's just awkward and very wtf.

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    1. HOW DID I FORGET WINKING? Ahh, I hate that! I actually find it quite creepy lol. If some dude was winking at me all the time, I'd slowly back away

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  7. "Your characters cannot be loved by anyone except their boyfriend or girlfriend."

    Hahaha. So many books. Is this teenage angst, because I don't remember feeling like this!

    Plus, the slut shaming HAS TO GO. I just read a book where the only other female character was named a bitch, but the guys that shot at our MC alongside the bitchy girl were fine. Wait, what? Men are cool if they shoot at you, but not women? Get out of here with that nonsense, they all suck.

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    1. Slut-shaming is the absolute worst. It's so off-putting to read about girls being put down or bitched about because they choose to have sex with people they like. OMG HOW HORRIBLE :/ Or, because they dare to find the love interest attractive? Uhm, the author has just spend 100 pages listing how goodlooking he is, and now we're shocked someone else in the story thinks so too and that someone else must now be called a whore? WHAT?! Nonsense, I tell you

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  8. This is spot on! I love YA but they do get so formulaic at times!

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    1. Definitely. Fortunately, there's a lot of great books out there that break the mould!

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  9. Ooh, ooh! Don't forget to mention how the main character lets out the breath she didn't realize she was holding ;) Love this post because it's so true. I really dislike most of these. They do have potential to work but they usually just don't.

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    1. HAHA YES! I forgot about that *facepalm* Or when they just 'suck in a breath'. Can you imagine what someone looks like sucking in a breath? The answer: pretty stupid.

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  10. Haha i LOVE this post. Some things are funny (the eyebrow heading..oh my god) and other's are just so true and annoying LOL! I remember hearing this quote a family member once told me and it was something like "all great stories are about love or death and the best one's are usually about both" so I get why all books (or most of them) have romance in them in one way or another. In all honesty i wouldn't enjoy them if they didn't!
    Lily @ Lilysbookblog

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    1. That, my friend, is a beautiful quote!

      To be honest, I'm kind of a hypocrite because I actually love a good romance. I just don't like when the entire book is about that romance and any other story possibilities are neglecting / all the other characters are conveniently brushed aside and really underdeveloped. I like a book with romance, but I want it to be about ore than JUST the romance. Even Romeo and Juliet had a bunch of other plot points going on too!

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  11. Hilarious and SOOO true Allie! What is it with the absent parents, the bitchy girls and the terrible influence of a BFF? I loved your post, here I was nodding at all of them. And haha BLAME the government lol! sooo true!

    Jeann @ Happy Indulgence

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    1. God forbid any presidents / prime ministers read YA dystopia lol. Conspiracy theorists must love it :P

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  12. Wow, very well said! I think I'm beginning to tally how many eyebrows are being raised per book, XD. Sometimes they're in a really weird way. O_O

    ~Sophia @ Bookwyrming Thoughts

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    1. The eyebrow tally will go on for pages! And winking – that'll be an epically long list too!

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  13. Bahaha, this is totally true!! Absent parents, bitchy BFF, multiple love interest, and brow-ing session is totally happening right now on YA world :D
    And ooh, I just realize that it's so true, boy would smirk all the way on almost every book. Why oh why couldn't they just smile normally?

    Anyway, great post, Allie!

    Neysa @ Papier Revue

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    1. I honestly don't see many smirks IRL. In YA fiction it's meant to be so sexy or something and I DO NOT GET IT.

      The YA world needs to step it up!

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  14. Haha Allie this is so funny but sadly also so true.

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    1. I know :( even the awesome books still have one or two of these lurking around!

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  15. "Nobody likes happy people" HAHAHAHAHA OMG this post just made my day! This is so sad but so true! And I don't know how you came up with that Starbucks point but that was genuis

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    1. LOL, I'm glad I entertain!

      The Starbucks thing came from me reading too many novels describe 'milky' and 'mocha' skin. I half expected to turn the page and find 'he had half-fat, no whip, decaf latte cheeks' or something!

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  16. OMG - I'm listening to the audiobook of Unbreakable by Kami Garcia - and maybe because I'm actually hearing it now, but this book has almost every single one of the things you mentioned above!

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    1. LOL. I've never even read that book, so I promise I didn't cheat you :P

      Just goes to show how some things have become something for authors to 'fall back' on when they can't think what else to write

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  17. I have to admit when I saw the title I was totally ready to get angry! But this was absolute perfection. Thank you for pointing out all the familiar tropes in YA. Lately I'm finding it really hard to not DNF a book that has any of these aspects! Really amazing post that had me laughing throughout!

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    1. I'm glad I didn't incur your wrath and you stepped over to the dark side ;)

      Yeah, when i see one of these while reading a book now, it always catches my eye and takes me out of the story. If more than a couple of these crop up, I end up really not enjoying the book, because it feels like I'm reading the same thing over and over

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  18. I'm reading, I'm thinking 'This sounds like a perfect recipe for EVERY SINGLE YA BOOK!' Except for mine. There's no romance when you have to save your own life.

    And I'm finished reading and I'm think: I love Allie.

    Best post ever. You know I love a good snark.

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    1. LOL. The love is mutual, my friend!

      I don't mind a bit of romance in some books, but I hate that it's become the norm for romance to be in basically every YA book. I can't think of one I've read – even ones which are about daily death defiance – that don't have some romance sprinkled in. Like, what, no heroes / heroines can be without a boyfriend or girlfriend for a few months?

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  19. Ooh this is a hilarious list. Love it. Also, let's add the main character who is struggling so hard to fit in and then finds out they are some mystical creature or being. That is like 80% of how so many fantasy YA books start.

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    1. Ah yes, the shy, introvert who ends up being responsible for saving her entire mystical race! How could I forget? ;)

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  20. Ahahaha wait. I actually thought dystopian meant something to do with governments, or alternative realities where the government is totally repressive. It's not? :)) Oh man I feel stupid.

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    1. Definitely see how you thought that since dystopian books ALWAYS use that plot point! Dystopia really just means a bad place. It's the opposite of utopia. So it can be any world that's bad for any reason :D

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  21. HAHA. Oh my gosh. So perfect.
    Although dramatically cliché, almost every YA book actually does contain at least one of these! It's just awesome how you have put it into perspective. Especially eyebrow raising. Now that I think about it, I can't remember a book that doesn't include some sassy eyebrows.

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    1. The eyebrows are taking over! ;)

      Seriously though, if any of my friends raised their eyebrows at me as much as folks in fiction do, I'd get quite offended. It's like eyebrows are raised over EVERYTHING anyone says.

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  22. HAHA! How have I not seen this before? Greatest post EVER and so bloody true. You got everyone spot on and perfect. I am so fed up of a romance taking centre stage now, even if that's not the genre of the book. I am so fed up of love triangles and girls being unable to choose a guy. I'm super fed up of slut shaming and really bad BFFs.

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    1. LOL, why thank you!

      Do not even get me started on love triangles. Seriously, I'm so against them it's unreal (I even made a post about all the different, and equally annoying kinds). And slut-shaming is just . . . I don't GET it. Especially when so many love interests are seen as 'players' and the girls seem to like the fact that the guy has a lot of experience and is desired. Yet apparently it's not the same for girls? So stupid

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