|YA Epidemics is an original feature in which I |
numerous trends and cliches plaguing the YA genre. The Epidemics are posted most Saturdays.
Comments and discussions are encouraged!
Brown hair. 5'5. Neither skinny nor fat, curvy nor flat. I have one best friend, she's so much prettier and more charismatic than I am. I am average Jane Doe, Everywoman. Never even been on a date. I am destined to live my life on the sidelines, alone.
300 pages later....
Every cute guy in my school is in love with me. Huh. Must be the new shampoo.
If only life were like YA novels. We girls who happily trade looks and popularity for intelligence would have all the boys worth lusting over eating out of our Plain Jane hands. Our biggest problems would be whether to choose the newcomer who makes us swoon with one crooked grin or the loyal friend who's secretly always had a bit of a hard-on for us. (Can I say that?) We could sit back happily and let the world deliver these tasty morsels of man-meat right to our laps, because in YA, one thing is abundantly clear; Everyone Loves An Average Girl.
"I'm too gorgeous and smart and capable, I need you to balance me out or it'll just be ridiculous."
"That girl was too perfect. That girl was too flawed. But this girl is just right!"
I wonder sometimes if this trend was born out of daydreams and fantasies. In my mind, I get all the hotties drooling over me, waiting on me hand-and-foot...and usually without a shirt on. But in reality, let's just say there's a reason I spend my Friday nights blogging every week.
Do you ever get the feeling these authors are so busy making their protagonists ooze averageness that they forget to make them stand out? That a lot of these girls could be clone copies of each other, thrust into a different setting and given a different name and minor differing physical traits? (I'm sorry, you have me confused with someone else. I'm 5'3, and my hair isn't brown. It's dirty blond. Duh.) As a huge fan of characterization, it's not a good sign.
Which brings me to my big question; why would every single guy in these girls' lives want an almost painfully average girl? Why would so many of these guys, who can get pretty much any girl they could possibly want, choose Jane Doe over the beautiful, funny, smart best friend? Well, because it's a book. Books are escapism. Books are where the impossible happens, and where Jane really can turn into a boy-magnet overnight. I get that, I really do. I completely understand why it's so popular, why so many readers love following their Plain Jane heroins' adventures in life and love. But personally, I'd rather read about a character who actually has a strong personality than a blank screen on which I can project myself, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.
But take aside the absurdity of the "average" girl getting about ten times her cosmic share of love. Forget for a moment that the school wallflower almost never walks out of school hand-in-hand with the sexy rebel senior boy. It starts to get plain annoying after awhile when every single book tries to thrust its protagonist's average averageness in our faces. (Especially when, in half of these YA books, the author mistakes "average" for "flawless with straight brown hair instead of bouncy blonde curls".) I mean, these books are literally making their single most important characters the most cliche, redundant aspect of the story! Bella, Violet, Nora, Katie, Morgan, Lena, they're all the same character. They're nothing but a blank canvas on which to paint a picture, a vehicle to take us from opening to conclusion. They're not driving the story, they're being driven by it, and quite often it's painfully obvious that that's the case.
As you know by now, these YA Epidemics posts were born out of my exasperation with trend-hopping over originality in popular Young Adult fiction. What illustrates my point better than a legion of clones for our protagonists? In my opinion, an average main character will rarely deliver more than an average reading experience.
Now for your take. What do you think of the sudden influx of "average" YA protagonists? Why do you think they're so popular? Are you a fan, or do you want to see more of those distinct voices in YA fiction? As always, leave it in the comment!