Books I’d Like to See—Teens Can Write, Too! Blog Chain

So this is my first time participating in the monthly Teens Can Write, Too! Blog Chain. I’ve followed this blog chain for a long time, but I’ve never actually written a post for it, because I’m lame like that. But now I’m finally participating, because this prompt is just too good to pass up. For the month of May, the prompt is:

What kinds of published books would you like to see more of?

1. More diverse books that aren’t “issue books”

A couple weeks ago, twitter was taken over by the #WeNeedDiverseBooks project. And it was very much needed and entirely inspiring and really freakin’ awesome. But when people started throwing around suggestions about diverse books, the titles seemed to have a similar theme–nearly all of them were “issue books” that focus on really serious problems in life. Homophobia, racism, religious intolerance, ect.

There’s nothing wrong with issue books. Actually, I love those types of books and feel they’re very much a necessary part of the YA genre. But when every single diverse book is an issue book, it suggests that being diverse is an issue. Which it’s not. Ignorant and intolerant people are the issue, not the diverse people themselves. So I’d like to see fewer books with Diverse Main Characters and more books with Main Characters in Cute or Mysterious or Magical Plots Who Just-So-Happen to be Diverse in Some Way or Another.

Let’s see a Frankenstein retelling with a snarky Asian MC who is always getting her geeky best friend in trouble. Or a Contemporary novel set in France, where a bi girl gets lost from her tour group and stumbles into a mystery involving ancient catacombs. Basically, I want books that incorporate diversity, but aren’t strictly about diversity.

2. More books that feature sick protags who don’t whine 24/7 and/or then die.

Okay, let’s just get this straight–there are a ton of teens out there with chronic illnesses. TONS. And yet they’re rarely represented in YA fiction, and when they do make appearances, they’re usually either annoyingly whiny or dead by the end of the book.

Personally, I have some chronic health issues, and I also have friends with serious medical problems. So I can tell you from experience that most of us don’t spend our entire lives crying and grumbling about our illnesses. We live life as normally as possible, and make the best out of bad situations. And a lot of us actually have a sense of humor about our health problems. For example:

  • When someone I know well asks me to do a physical chore–do the dishes, make dinner, ect.–I’ll say something like, “Oh, so you’re going to make the cripple do it?!” And it’s highly sarcastic and stupid, yet somehow funny.
  • I sometimes walk with this really weird gait because my brain hates me, and I sort of look like one of those peg-legged pirates from old films. So my brother now refers to my handicapped parking tag as “The Jolly Roger” and he talks in pirate-speak whenever we’re parking.
  • My brother and his best friend/my surrogate brother have the “Life Alert” commercials memorized. Those are the super cheesy commercials where old people trip over nothing and then start yelling, “Help! I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” My brother can quote those commercials like nobody’s business, and he doesn’t pass up the opportunity whenever I faint.
  • I could go on for a very long time, but I’ll spare you.

So moral of the story is that not all teens with medical problems are whiny. And we’re also not all about to drop dead any second– there are statistically more teens who are chronically ill rather than terminally ill. So it would be extremely logical for authors to feature MCs who are dealing with severe illnesses, but not obsessing over death. And it would also be extremely welcome, because I get tired of having to choose between books with healthy MCs and books with almost-dead MCs.

3. Mythological-inspired fiction not based on Greek myths.

I love Greek myths. Really, I adore them much more than I probably should. But there are also a ton of very interesting, very under-represented ancient cultures out there. Take the Mayans, for example. Their religion was incredibly dark. For example: Suicide was usually considered an honorable death in Maya culture, so they had this goddess named Ixtab who was a patron of suicidal people. Disturbing, right? But also interesting. There’s tons of fodder for novels buried in Maya mythology, and also in the mythologies of many other cultures outside of Greece. (And someone seriously needs to write a novel about Mithraism. I mean, an ancient Roman cult based on Persian beliefs, with underground temples and secret initiation processes? Someone write a book about this NOW.)

4. Novels based in Central/South America.

Like I mentioned in #3, there is so much interesting culture and history in these places, and the geography itself is fascinating. And yet very few YA books are set in Central/South America. It’s such a shame!

5. Non-romantic books.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good romance. But not everything in life revolves around getting the girl/guy, and I don’t want to be constantly reading about relationships. I’d love to see more books that feature main characters who either aren’t in a relationships, or who are more concerned about life issues rather than boyfriend/girlfriend issues. Also, it’d be great to see more teen MCs who aren’t in a relationship and don’t act like this is a travesty. There are teens out there who don’t date, either because they don’t want to or don’t have the chance to. And that’s okay. Really, it is. So there’s no need for all teen MCs to act like the world is ending whenever they go longer than 2.48 seconds without making out.

So what do you think? Would you read these types of books? And make sure to check out the rest of the other blogs participating in the chain this month! Here’s the full list:

May 5th – http://sammitalk.wordpress.com/

May 6th – http://www.nerdgirlinc.blogspot.com/

May 7th – http://nasrielsfanfics.wordpress.com/

May 8th – http://erinkenobi2893.wordpress.com/

May 9th – http://thelittleenginethatcouldnt.wordpress.com/

May 10th – http://randomofalife.blogspot.com/

May 11th – http://maralaurey.wordpress.com/

May 12th – http://www.fidaislaih.blogspot.com/

May 13th – http://musingsfromnevillesnavel.wordpress.com/

May 14th – http://theloonyteenwriter.wordpress.com/

May 15th – http://insideliamsbrain.wordpress.com/

May 16th – http://taratherese.wordpress.com/

May 17th – http://miriamjoywrites.com/

May 18th – https://oliviarivers.wordpress.com/

May 19th – http://afoodyportfolio.wordpress.com/

May 20th – http://magicandwriting.wordpress.com/

May 21st – http://unikkelyfe.wordpress.com/

May 22nd – http://www.brookeharrison.com/

May 23rd – http://eighthundredninety.blogspot.com/

May 24th – http://www.oyeahwrite.wordpress.com/

May 25th – http://avonsbabbles.wordpress.com/

May 26th – TheUnsimpleMind – [Link to come.]

May 27th – http://thependanttrilogy.wordpress.com/

May 28th – http://www.lilyjenness.blogspot.com/

May 29th – http://sunsandstarsanddreams.wordpress.com/

May 30th – http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com/ – (We’ll announce the topic for June’s blog chain!)

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20 thoughts on “Books I’d Like to See—Teens Can Write, Too! Blog Chain

  1. Okay, so you need to do one of two things: 1- Write a book about your life because there is SO much material in that little but you shared I would totally read it or 2- share EVERYTHING with another writer so they can use your golden material to write a book. I’m still dying over the Jolly Roger. Sounds like you and your brother have a fantastic outlook on life. And I found many of your wants interesting. I love this blog tour!

    • Haha, thank you! Someday I’ll eventually write something about my experiences with health issues, because I’ve encountered some unique situations. 😛 But for now I’ll stick to writing fiction, because it’s soooo much more fun, hah. Thanks for stopping by and reading!

      • No problem! And fiction is definitely more fun! I could write a memoir on being a teen, but even though it would have an uplifting ending, it’s a bit too heavy for me to tackle now. As strange as it may sound, writing post apocalyptic YA is more enjoyable.

  2. Good points. I can imagine how annoying a sick and whiny protagonist would be to real teens who endure!

    I like to read romance, but I do think many YA writers go overboard.

  3. Excellent post! I loved your point about diverse characters and how diverse plots needn’t be ‘issue’ plots – and the idea about the girl getting lost in Paris and *fans self* a female Asian Frankenstein retelling?!? Amazing. 😀

  4. Good post. Excellent point about diversity. I’m more likely to read about diverse characters who do awesome things than diverse characters who struggle with their diversity in ways I can barely imagine. That’s a big distinction that few on the chain have yet made.

    Good post!

  5. Great post! I agree completely with points… well, all of them. Hadn’t really thought about South/Central America before, but it would be fun to read a book set there.

    I tend to be hesitant of books with diverse or ill MCs because I don’t like reading “issue” books or stories about dying people (not that I haven’t read and loved books in which characters die). It would be awesome to pick up a book with a sick or diverse MC and not have to worry about watching the MC die or getting preached at.

    • I didn’t think about the lack of Central/South American settings until I took an intensive Spanish course last semester. And then it suddenly hit me that their cultures are pretty darn awesome, and we really need more books set there! So I’m glad to hear you agree. 🙂

      And I agree that it can be tiring getting preached at with issue books. There are only so many life lessons you can properly pack into 300 pages! 😛

  6. 100% agreed with this post, and commiserations on the health problems. 🙂 I say I agree, but that’s pretty self-serving, since I think my own post was relatively similar. Oh well.

    Have you read The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare? Jem Carstairs is a chronically ill character and he’s certainly not whiny. I’m not going to tell you whether or not he dies because that would be a spoiler, but he’s a fun character, and very sympathetic. Cassie Clare’s pretty good at diversity generally, to be honest — more variety of characters in her books than in pretty much anything else I’ve ever read.

  7. YES YES YES!

    God, I love this.

    First off, you make a great point about teens “suffering” in some way and humor. Because, like, lots of these issue books lack as much as a single joke, and it’s ridiculous. Like you said, all teens joke, are sarcastic, etc. and that includes people with chronic illnesses/depression/suffering from bullying/etc. Some people may spend their whole life wrapped up in their “problem,” and that is incredibly heartbreaking and should also get representation, but the fact that most all of these issue books are so depressing makes me mad. People who are generally oppressed or suffering are often the funnier, more upbeat of everyone.

    Also – YES to Mayan mythology. And Aztec too. Ancient Chinese mythology would be amazing too.

    Great post! So happy you’re participating in this. 🙂

    • Agreed that it’s incredibly sad when people spend their entire life obsessing over their “problem”. One of the medical conditions I have is Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, and it negatively affects pretty much every organ system. When I was first diagnosed, it was really frightening, because if you google the condition, you’ll find all these forums filled with people who have essentially given up on life. Luckily, I was able to connect with a few other teens with the same condition, who were all very upbeat about their heath and tackled their issues head-on. But even though I now know being sick isn’t the end of the world, I’ll never forget that horror of reading those forums and essentially being told that my life was over at 14. No one should ever have to feel that sort of hopelessness, and that’s essentially why I write YA with disabled protags–to prove that being sick doesn’t equal being hopeless.

      Anyway, I’m getting off topic. 😛 Thanks for stopping by and commenting! Oh, and yes–ancient Chinese mythology is amazing-tastic. Someone really needs to write a novel about it!!

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