In the past few years, I have read a few Young Adult (YA) novels. I enjoyed some of them. Many have a similar plot. Shy/timid/clumsy/not-so-pretty/innocent/if-pretty-doesn’t-know-she-is-pretty-girl falls for the most good-looking new guy at school/work. The boy falls for her too either right away or eventually. Then there are some plot twists. And all ends well in the end. A decent plot which is mostly well-written works for me. Usually these stories incline towards being fairy-tale romances and for a while, it feels good to immerse in that world on a lazy evening.
But lately, I have started finding these stories a bit lame. Pardon my generalization. Some of them are really good and make sense. But for most, I feel the need for a bit more depth with the feelings and emotions. Why did the characters fall in love? What did they see in each other that they thought he/she is the one? It NEEDS to be more than “The guy is so good-looking that I could just kill myself” and “he has a chiseled face, sharp deep blue eyes that cause butterflies the size of elephants in my stomach and a killer smile that melts away the ground beneath my feet”.
I don’t deny the role of attraction, passion and chemistry between the characters. That is definitely required and makes it romantic and out of the world. But it cannot and should not stop there. What made them fall for each other, other than the initial attraction? What are their redeeming qualities? Some might say why would you need such philosophical complications for light readings like YA fiction. But I think, since it is YA fiction, it is all the more important to sketch the characters beyond just their good looks. It is essential to lay proper emphasis on their good and bad qualities, nature and if possible, even habits in the storyline.
Why you ask? One prime reason is that a good chunk of the audience is teenage girls. They need to know and understand that a good-looking guy is not what love and life is all about. And heck, character of a person is much more important than just the good-looks. Many girls dream of a prince-charming, a knight in a shining armor. And many YA novels bolster this belief that a perfect love story means a damsel in distress being saved by a beautiful handsome stranger. It just begins and ends there. And this is what has started bothering me. I yearn for something more and yet want the stories to retain the teenage fun, problems and light-heartedness. (Maybe I have grown too old? Okay, I don’t want to go there right now 🙂 )
Overall, I think little more character depth will take the stories and the readers a long way. I still love the “good looking rich handsome young men who set the pulses racing”. I just want to know them a bit more than that.
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I found this book helpful to me not just for the feminist reasons but for some good career advice. I wouldn’t say it is “THE” book, but it definitely has some good examples and suggestions that could be helpful for most women, elite or not. Apart from being competent, this book explains how there are so many other factors that are important to advance one’s career. I could relate to many of the thought-processes that Ms. Sandberg mentioned and see how that particular way of thinking could hamper your growth. It also brings out a very good point that if leaning in helps women in their career, then leaning in towards family helps men equally.
However, I would have loved to have more insight on how the successful women described in this book, launched their careers right after college, because many a times there was a disconnect between college and landing that “career-launcher”. And I felt some of the themes were being dragged on and on and it felt overwhelming.
Overall, I liked this book for good advice, simple writing, supporting facts and sparking a global discussion on a topic that deserved attention and action. I think it was about time. Kudos to Ms Sandberg.
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I have always felt very strongly for anything labelled as ‘women-issues’. I have many a times proudly claimed myself as a feminist. But not until recently have I found myself guilty of being stuck in so many gender-stereotypes that it was almost a revelation! Some of these stereotypes are so subtle, that it amazed me how did they manage to creep in and become a part of my thinking. And I think this is true for many women.
Have you hoped to find a man who is better than you in many many ways including intellectual and financial? It is natural for a person to want better things in life including a life-partner. But how many men really desire a life-partner who earns more than they do, who is intellectually superior than themselves? And yet, women would be wanting it and it is somewhat considered to be the right thing to want or desire. It is absolutely normal and kind of expected of a woman to project herself as the ‘supporting-role’ financially in the household.
Now assuming a different direction, we would have read numerous YA and fiction novels where the female protagonist is portrayed as a damsel in distress/shy/clumsy/lacking confidence and the absolutely good-looking guy would fall for her. But he would be very protective or controlling of her, say mean things to her (because apparently he is confused in his head that he probably loves her!), in some cases ‘do’ mean things to her, hurt her, threaten her, torment her, be jealous or be over-protective to the extent of stalking her and still she would stand by him and think of him as her prince charming. And accept it or not, we find it romantic and we fall for the whole good-looking prince charming crap who is almost a male-chauvinist in disguise! We fail to see that in all these situations in fiction, female character is shown as submissive, fragile and a person lacking in self-worth and we are deluded into thinking that this is normal and expected. Would we like the novel if the characters were reversed? If the male character was all clumsy and the female was the strong controlling one? We would think of the male character as a loser and a sissy and the female to be a bi***! If such a portrayal of a man is not acceptable, how does it become an acceptable portrayal of a woman?
These are just a couple of examples from the many. We function on many such stereotypes without even realizing them. It is ingrained in our system and almost indistinguishable. They might not hurt us in an apparent way, but they do hinder us in ways we do not realize. It is about time to recognize and free ourselves from the cobwebs of stereotypical thinking.
[I do not have answers and solutions to the questions that have arose in my mind. I will continue to explore and share my thoughts as I educate myself in feminism and women-issues.]