things i wish YA reviews didn't have

by - 1/07/2017 07:00:00 am

Crushes are harder than herbology by viria13
by Viria (viria13 on deviantArt) via
So ... I'm a fan of Goodreads. I always read a bunch of reviews before I buy a book (books don't come cheap, after all). But recently, I've been catching the same review clichés, some of which confuse me but most of which exhaust me.

These weird judgements made not just about one YA novel but the whole genre have skyrocketed on the Internet. We start to believe these little, subjective flaws in YA books are actual social issues that must be addressed. Like the

"No romance is not only a good thing, but it's the best thing that could ever happen!"

issue. You've heard that before. "Finally, a book with a boy and a girl, and NO romance!" "Why can't there be books without romance?"

This is still a common trend in reviews, but why? Why do we suddenly have an active adversity to romance? 

If you don't like romance, that's okay. But this implication that the YA genre is filled with an inordinate amount of romance doesn't actually have a foundation. The presence of romance in your average YA book is about the same as it in our own lives. We see other couples everywhere. We've had our own romances. Yet, I've never heard someone who strongly desired a lack of romance in their ordinary lives. I only make this comparison to show the ridiculousness of pointing out a pair of best friends—boy and girl—in real life and exclaiming, "Finally, a boy and a girl friendship that is not a romance!"

The same claim is just as ludicrous in reviews; not because it's not a valid preference, but because the assumption that romance is overabundant to the point that it's unrealistic is not based on anything substantial.

Sick day by viria13
by Viria (viria13 on deviantArt) via
The Internet likes to propogate that "not enough books show that a boy and a girl can be just friends". Sure, a fair statement to make—if we were talking about personal preference. I find that I want to find more YA space operas with epic intergalactic battles and spacecraft. But this preference doesn't indicate the ruination of Young Adult books. The lack of space operas with intergalatic battles is not a problem (it's my problem, not the genre's). It's not another social issue. And actually, most books do show that a boy and a girl can be just friends. Hetero-friendships aren't, and never were, dead.

And there's also the whole "Give us flaws!" issue. As in, the

Here's a character with ambitions, dreams, hopes and individual moral decisions. Let's go flaw hunting!

issue. A long, long time ago, I remember reading countless posts about the importance of giving protagonists and other characters flaws to make them more realistic. I'm pretty sure I wrote such a post. Now, even though most characters make plenty of mistakes and have to face the consequences of their actions, we still demand more flaws. Actually, let me clarify: we demand more easily identifiable flaws.

It's the new trend; we put characters under the microscope time and time again until we forget why this movement for more flawed characters started in the first place.

I mean, I get that reviews are subjective. But it's exhausting to read about how certain characters don't have enough flaws in YA. It's like flaws have become a gold standard for realistic characters, instead of the level of engagement, empathy and relatibility we feel when we read from their perspectives. I've heard  'Mary Sue' being applied to Inej from Six of Crows, Hazel from The Fault in Our Stars and Viola from The Knife of Never Letting Go. And I can't help but feel these are exaggerations.

blast from the past by viria13
by Viria (viria13 on deviantArt) via
YA authors must be scratching their heads to figure out what we want. Romance is simultaneously a selling point and a common trope. The number of flaws is directly proportional to the level of realism.

Yeah, I know that by critiquing YA reviews I'm also biting the hand that feeds me, but I'm not really commenting on the reviews themselves. Reviews are subjective.

What I really believe is that we should re-evaluate our standards for YA. We're trying to make it better, but most of our declarations are paper-thin arguments, like something fresh out of a Tumblr post.

--

P.S. Has anyone noticed an issue with their post drafts not saving properly? I wrote like three posts which I planned to publish before (explains the brief lack of posts since two Sundays ago) but they randomly disappeared when I clicked save?

There was one called '4 useful features bloggers should have' which I particularly mourn the loss of. Would appreciate any help or advice you have on the matter. :(

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17 comments

  1. This was a really insightful post - it's something I've noticed but haven't given much thought to. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! Wishing you a happy new year. ;)
    peridotcove.blogspot.com

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    1. Thanks Sanjana. :) Happy new year to you too!

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  2. You hit this SPOT ON. I was actually going to write a post similar to this (but it's focusing more on the first point) and it's also focusing more towards a more general topic but agh, this post was so good! I do believe that yes, we can do more with heterosexual relationships (which there are many of), romance just sells more and honestly, woman can be strong with or without a romantic partner in life. *sighs* This is all so confusing.

    Flaws-- yes. Jo, I seriously cannot keep stressing the perfection of this post. You rock.

    xoxo Morning

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    1. DO IT! I'd be so excited for your thoughts on the romance thing. It's definitely hard to puzzle out, I agree with both sides to an extent. Thanks for your kind words, Morning! :)

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  3. YES. I don't know what else to say, to be honest. This post is awesome.

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  4. I'm sorry about your posts getting lost, I don't know why that would be happening. I love the artwork you chose in this post btw.

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    1. Yeah, I'll have to backup stuff for now. Thanks, Sarah. :)

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  5. UGH that is so annoying when your posts disappear. I honestly can't think of why that would happen...hmm. Did you try researching and seeing if others have the same problem?

    ALSO I enjoyed reading this post!

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    1. I did, and there seems to be no way to recover them. I can't be bothered to re-write them, they're out of my mind ...
      Thanks, Autumn!

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  6. love this
    chloee
    sparkofmads.blogspot.com

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  7. This is an interesting observation...i get what you mean, I feel like when reveiwing YA fiction our inner moral critics come out. We start thinking about what's best for the world and for teenaged culture (i.e. less romance, fewer standards for perfection ect.) but when we're buying and reading YA books we simply read what we enjoy.

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    Replies
    1. That's very true. On the whole, I think that's a great thing - to be thoughtful and treat novels as consequential - but I can't help but think that our criticisms sometimes go too far. We are much better at following the crowd, and I think this leaks into our reviews. In other words, our inner social critics come outather than our moral critics when we make impractical yet popular critiques.

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  8. I like fluffy little ships but not for the focus to be romance...

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  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

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