Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Real Teens of YA County

Hopefully this is preaching to the choir. A lot of YA writers are great about having textured, nuanced teen characters. Still, sometimes the cast is filled with an overabundance of "the regulars."

The jock. The cheerleader. The nerd. The nondescript average teen.

Wait, there's no such thing as that last one. Never in all my classrooms have I come across one of those. They show up in novels, though. Weird, that. It got me thinking about what I have seen. Here's a sampling of students I have taught or am teaching.

Students who weren't supposed to live past the night they were born.

Students whose parent is world-famous.

Students whose entire family is deaf (and sometimes that student is the most hearing among them).

Students who excel in a sport and qualify as a "geek" in another area (math, music, theater, ...).

Students with such a mix of half- and step-siblings, there are six or seven different last names in their household.

Students whose bodies could break all too easily.

Students with the most spectacular cases of ADHD.

Students who are in foster care because their parents are in jail.

Students who aren't supposed to have much of a life expectancy.

Students who are quiet for a reason ... and very NOT quiet when you get them going. (By the way, this group is never, EVER boring.)

I could go on if I let myself, but you get the idea.

Some of those I see in novels. Some not so much. (Of course, I'm not as super-wide-read in some genres of YA as I'd like to be.) Some only when it's the "issue" of the story. Maybe some things could be incidental to the plot. The MC's best friend is in a foster family, but that's not the point of the story.

Or maybe that's just me and my preferences. Maybe some people would read that and keep waiting and waiting for that fact to become relevant.

What do you think? Are there certain types of teens you'd like to see pop up more in YA literature?


Anonymous said...

You've had some really interesting students. As a reader, I'd like to see more of that in general. There are some out there, but more characters like the ones you listed, with varying quirks/traits/situations would be great. I'm totally with you on the no such thing as the nondescript average teen.

E.B. Black said...

They have that nondescript person in adult novels a lot as well. Something I had to learn and I think is very important is there is no such thing as an nondescript character and it should especially NOT be your main character. "Average" is not a true description of anybody.