Teen Librarian Toolbox
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Sunday Reflections: Pet peeves and more

I run a YA book club through my local public library. It’s an incredibly diverse group. About half of our members are Muslim. We have homeschooled and unschooled kids. The age range runs from 14 to members in their first few years of college (members who’ve stuck around). I have an absolute blast with them. Our meetings don’t have a set format. Sometimes we all read one book (or choose a book to read out of a small pool). Sometimes we read thematically (like when we had the excellent discussion about sexual violence in YA lit). We often just come in ready to talk about whatever we’ve been reading and give lightning round book talks. There’s always a lot of great discussion and our TBR piles grow like crazy every meeting.

 

As you might expect, we all have different likes and dislikes. Often someone will read a book one of us loved and say, uh, really? I didn’t love it. Or someone will hate on a particular genre or stylistic choice, and someone else will be shocked anyone could hate that. The only real rule at book club is to let people talk and be respectful about everyone’s right to like and dislike a book for any given reason. Sometimes I find it so much more interesting to hear why someone disliked a book instead of why they liked it.

 

After our particularly ranty part of a meeting, I said, “Hey, next meeting let’s just talk about our reading pet peeves. Let’s get all our ranting out about what we dislike, what we’re so over, and what we flat-out hate.” They were game. Because of our diverse tastes, I knew that we’d all still add books to our TBR lists even if the titles came up in a rant-based way. One person’s pet peeve is another person’s interest, right? So we started to make a list–a list that briefly expanded to include all of the things we dislike in general (it was January, we hadn’t seen the sun in ages, we were all cranky). I opened the discussion up again on Facebook as I compiled the notes from our meeting and got even more input.

 

It’s not to say that all of us dislike all of these things, or that whoever dislikes the particular thing dislikes it across the board all the time. We agreed on many of the items. We argued others. I offered an adult-perspective smackdown on one. Some items on the list were things we hadn’t noticed before, but now we’re all on the lookout for them (and finding them).

 

Here’s our list:

When characters sit on public bathroom floors (This one is mine–it grosses me out to no end)

 

Characters letting out a breath they didn’t know they were holding

Characters who don’t grow/learn/change at all

 

Girls who like boys who seem to have NO appeal

 

Alternate narration

 

When characters have something they do over and over like bite their lip or whatever

 

Dystopia-fatigue

 

Quickly resolved endings

 

Plots that could be resolved by better communication/one simple thing

 

Is it a secret rule that every YA book has to have a redhead in it?


That “loser girl hates the world but ends up with popular boy” trope is getting real old.

 

“Bad boy/good girl” combination–so overplayed

 

instalove

 

car accidents (This one is also mine. I never paid attention to them, really, until I had a reason to, and now I can’t stop seeing them in YA books)

 

Pop culture references that will seem dated

 

When two people are making out and “their tongues battle for dominance.”

 

weird 90s references that seem unlikely for the character/setting

 

perfect or completely terrible adults who don’t sound like real adults

 

overuse of exclamation points

 

when books reference Harry Potter or Twilight

 

do all characters who are “weird” or “alternative” have to wear Converse?

 

books made up of lists

 

references to social media sites (and, conversely, acting like they don’t exist)

 

When a character has an ED, some other mental illness, or gay and that’s all they are…

 

When the character depicted on the cover looks nothing like how he or she is described in the book

 

manic pixie dream girls

Love triangles (THIS ONE had the most agreement: “Once in awhile they turn out pretty good. Most of the time they just get annoying.” “Love triangles are just annoying. They seem to be in every single book lately. If you loved someone but have feelings for someone else, break up and make a decision! You do it and  you then can have a relationship.”)

 

“The “he’s a bad boy but I can change him/he’s mean but he’s just misunderstood” idea. Playing with fire when you romanticize this and then give it to young girls.” (This was brought up by one of the teens. Another teen girl sort of swooned and said, “Yes, but he’s damaged and you can fix him!” Usually I try not to play the “let me give you some adult advice” card, but here I had to say, “Look, let me spare you a ton of heartache and wasted energy: NO. Do not find this idea appealing.”)

 

Cliffhangers

 

“I don’t like it when a book has a love interest that is some basic person. I like it better when they have a passion and love for making differences and being a leader of movements or their local book club.”

 

That’s our list. We’d love to hear about your personal reading pet peeves or things you’re just so over  in YA books. Leave us a comment or tag us in your tweets (@TLT16 and @CiteSomething). 

Comments

  1. Bahahaha I totally have a book coming out in November where they sit on a public bathroom floor, and it grossed me out just to write it.

    For me, with a lot of these, it’s all about how it’s done – if you have characters who are passionate and erratic falling in instalove, I buy it. If your love triangle shows what both of these people bring to the table, or someone new came along who piqued your interest but you were already dating a perfectly good person…hell yeah, I buy feeling too guilty to break up with the first person. To me, those are such real teen things that they only bug me when they don’t ring true.

    A book centered around MySpace, however… *throws it in the fire*

  2. Amanda MacGregor Amanda MacGregor says:

    Dahlia, thanks for the comment! I completely agree with you, and much of our discussions at book club revolve around this too–if it’s done well, in an interesting way, in a way that makes it stand out, most of us can get over our inclination to dislike something based on other examples. It was interesting to me to hear that things I tend to like (like alternate narration) drive some people bonkers. I like the conversations that spring up from someone passionately saying they dislike a certain thing, even if I don’t agree with them:)

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