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: