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.