On Friday, you asked--and today our teen spies and analysts answer!
1. It seems like all the teens in YA books are having rampant sex. Do you think this is more or less realistic, or does it sometimes go too far?
Chihuahua Zero: I haven't been reading any of these books, so I think in terms of general YA, no. In fact, I would say the opposite should happen, but only to a slighter degree. Is rampant sex really happening in the edgier side of YA?
Alexis: I think it's realistic, but teens don't really want to read about that stuff! I think sometimes it goes too far - it wouldn't be so bad if they faded out on some of the stuff, but when it goes really in depth, sometimes it gets disturbing.
Maddie: I guess it really depends on the way the author writes it. If it's vividly detailed like an erotica novel, it's obviously gone too far. If it's every other chapter, it's gone too far. If it seems like everyone is doing it all the time, it's...well, you know what I'm going to say.
Randi: I think all the sex in young adult novels is really un-necessary. I'll keep reading if it's a good book (i.e. The Fault in Our Stars) but it's definitely off putting. If it is used realistically, than I'll continue, but a lot of books out right now use it as a way to get people talking (i.e. The Chemical Garden series), which I think is ridiculous.
Emily V: It's definitely not realistic in my circle of friends. I hope it's an exaggeration of the rest of the teens in the world. It definitely seems to be getting more and more common though.
Emily C: UGH! I hate all the “rampant sex” in YA books. It is awful to read because I don’t want to read about that stuff. (That was a horrible explanation, sorry) Also, I feel that often books will go way to far, in my opinion.
Scotie: I think it depends on the age group it is meaning to reach, what age group the person is writing about, and how it relates to the story. Like if it's two seventeen to nineteen year olds having sex, then, whatever it happens a lot. However if it's like a fourteen year old sleeping around, it is a little questionable. Yeah, these things happen, but not that often and when they do, no one is really benefited so the writer, in my opinion, should not be writing about such a thing anyway.
2. What kinds of hobbies do you have? Do you know if there are any hobbies that are popular or common in your group of friends or at your school? (A boy at my second high school had the money and space for my dream hobby, antique cars, and I'm still jealous!)
Maddie: Writing :) as for the second part of the question- I'm not really sure. I know my best friend shares my love for writing.
Emily V: I like making/collecting miniature things, crocheting, cooking, etc. I don't think any of those things are really super popular among my group of friends.
Riv: I'm a writer and I generally hang out with fellow smart writers, so there's that. I know people that read, a bunch that draw. There's a good portion of for-fun dancers. And there's probably a stamp-collector or two =D
I also know people that watch TV or text obsessively, if that counts...
Emily C: Erm. Quite honestly, my biggest hobby is reading. At my school we have a “Power Mechanics” program, so you’ll see people tinkering on engine bits at all times... whether for class or not. I haven’t really noticed a lot of different hobbies....
Scotie: Reading, Writing, Daydreaming, Listening to Music. Reading is big at my school and in my group of friends, since I hang out with fellow writers/ insane reading fanatics and since I go to nerd school.
Alexis: My hobby is reading and archery - which are very uncommon at my school. I don't know anyone else in my high school that does archery, but some of them consider reading a hobby. A common hobby at my school is mudding, since we live in the country and people like taking big trucks out in the mud and run around.
Randi: I have a wizard rock band that keeps me pretty busy. I also do a lot of reading and play a lot of different instruments.
Gracie: My main hobbies are writing and music. I think everyone's different as far as hobbies go, just because of their different interests. So I don't really know of any popular or common hobbies... music is definitely a big one, though, I'm sure... whether it be listening to it or playing an instrument.
3. Do you like to read about characters in similar or different geographical areas? E.g., if you live in farm country, do you relate better to other rural characters, or do you like to live vicariously through big city characters? If you live in the city, do you like reading about characters in a slower-paced area?
Scotie: Personally, I don't care where the character lives. I think it is the character that matters, their personality, not really where they live or what they've experienced.
Alexis: I live in the country, and I love reading about urban characters! When I grow up, I want to live in a bigger city, so this kind of helps me prepare myself for what's out there without having to pay money to travel there yet ;)
Randi: I usually don't pay much mind to the geography of my books. Being from Alabama, To Kill A Mockingbird pretty much covers everything so not a lot of novels have been written since then set here. But if you can use a setting to your advantage (i.e. Daughter of Smoke and Bone), then go for it!
Emily C: I really like reading about characters in all situations. Cities are nice because I can relate, and yet rural area books, or books from different countries/continents are nice because I don’t relate to them... It is nice to sometimes be able to imagine life in a totally different environment than what you are used to...
Chihuahua Zero: Hmm...most of the stories I read are either in urban areas or small towns. In general, I don't really read books centered around a farm. I have a thing for small town stories (like Moon Over Manifest) and I should read those kinds of stories more, but farm-based stories? I don't read a lot of those.
Gracie: If I only wanted to read books about my own geographical area, I'd never read any books. (Generally the authors I like don't write about Manitoba, Canada :D). So I don't really care what the setting is, although it's nice to have a variety. I know there's tons of books out there set in either small towns or huge cities, and it'd be nice to have something different.
Emily V: Honestly, I think it depends on the skill of the author. I enjoy reading about characters that live in places both similar and quite different to my own home as long as the author is able to portray them well and clearly. But I would say generally it is more interesting to read about people who live in places different than myself.
Riv: It honestly depends. I'm from New York, and I come across a nice amount of urban fantasy books about fairies in Manhattan and, when it's done well, I absolutely love it. I really latch on to books that can capture the magic of the city.
I also really enjoy small-town books, specifically for the small-town-ness. The slowness is just really nice.
And then there's even more distant, like the occasional Aussie book. If the author knows what they're doing, I can get really into the setting. I've never been too far from my home town.
I think you need to consider each story separately. You need to ask yourself what the best setting for your book is. Make a pro-con list if you need to, of small towns and big cities. BUT, don't try to write something completely out of your element. A New Yorker won't be caught dead saying ya'll, and I don't think a Texan would ever say "yestaday." You need to know where you're writing. Setting can be a character. Make sure that she's not 2D, and that she doesn't do anything out-of-character.
Maddie: Where the characters live usually doesn't matter to me. As long as the actual character is well-developed, they can be anywhere.
4. Would you have difficulty relating to teens who had much different, more adult roles and responsibilities, like a girl in her late teens being engaged or married already, a teenage boy serving as a soldier, or a teen who has a full-time job and has a lot of responsibility in running the household and caring for younger siblings? Or would you still consider it real YA, just a different type, so long as the story is good and the voice matches a young person, albeit a young person in an era when teens were considered miniature adults?
Emily C: I feel that I would have a harder time relating with characters like that, since I cannot imagine having that much responsibility on my shoulder, but that wouldn’t stop me from reading a YA novel like that. Just because I can’t relate doesn’t mean that I am not going to like the book.
Riv: This is a really good question. :) I think that teens are teens no matter where you are. We're all balls of angst, filled to the brim with raging hormones. Just remember that when you write about your girl running her own household. People say age is a number. If she acts like an adult, it's not YA. You need to remember the "Y" part.
Randi: It depends on the setting. Historical fiction, where it is normal to be married or betrothed at a young age can work if it puts you in the right mindset. Dystopian novels can work with that as well, but as far as realistic fiction where the 17 year old is married off, not my thing.
Maddie: That's difficult to answer. I've never really read any YA like that. I don't think it would be difficult to relate to characters in those situations, though.
Emily V: I think it's definitely still real YA and I think though I am not in those situations I would not have trouble imagining/relating to situations like that. I think if the story (and the writer, of course) is good, that's all that matters.
Scotie: No. Honestly, I don't see enough of that. I'd like to see more adult like teens. Not all of us are hormonal-driven, sex-crazed, freaking short people who only care about Facebook and say "OMG" every five seconds. I think a lot of teens do have to take on more mature roles at a younger age than some. People don't really see that.
Gracie: I think it would definitely still be real YA, as long as the voice and mindset of the character fits a teenager. Also, I don't really care if I can't relate to a character. I personally don't read books to read about someone exactly like me. I read books to find out and connect with different characters.
Chihuahua Zero: Not really. It's usually an indication of a grittier book though, or the opposite. Both become hit-and-miss for my personal tastes.
Alexis: I wouldn't mind reading about that - I really admire people who have the courage and strength to fight for our country, or to pay for their family's welfare. I think it's very real, because teenagers in our society are in that exact situation!
5. Do you know of any groups either on Facebook or other places that allow writers to interact with teen readers? Readers that would like to give feedback on teen related questions?
Randi: Nope, you guys are it!
Chihuahua Zero: I don't have a Facebook account out of virtue (I don't need it), but I found that plenty of blogs have authors who are willing to take questions, like The Other Side of the Story.
Alexis: Well I would visit Inkpop weekly to see the YA author and teen chats, but Inkpop recently moved over to figment.com and I'm not sure if they do these anymore. But otherwise, the only place I see author interview/chats are on Twitter and around the blogosphere!
Riv: I really recommend Figment.com. The aim is on YA, and the greater percent of readers there are teens. And you can always shoot me an email, if you like. I love writerly people. ;)
Gracie: Kind of like YA Confidential, you mean? Well I know of lots of teenagers who maintain blogs and I'm sure they would be happy to answer your questions. This is a blog post I made a while back that has links to a bunch of teen blogs, and opinion posts by teens. I think you can learn a lot just by reading teen blogs, and even book blogs where teens review books. You can learn a lot from what teens like by reading their reviews.
Scotie: No, but I would like to participate if such a group does exist.
Emily C: Umm.... no. I haven’t really heard/seen anything like that except for a few blogs, and you guys.
Emily V: I don't know of any groups like that, but I think some authors do stuff like that on their blogs every once in a while.
6. How do you feel about authors trying to use "teen slang" in their novels? Do you appreciate it or does it seem like the author is trying too hard?
Scotie: It depends how it's used and how often it's used. If there are a couple, used at appropriate times, then that's cool. It's more relateable, in some situations. However, if "homie" or some crap like that is used every five words, I would throw the book off a bridge, screaming "Die!"
Emily V: I think most of the time slang doesn't look good in a novel. Especially if there's a lot of it and the same phrases are used repeatedly. If however, the whole book is written like that and it's just part of the setting (and it's done well) it's okay. But definitely don't over do it. Also, I think using slang can be just as dangerous as mentioning modern technology because it so frequently changes.
Gracie: Slang is tricky, just because it's one of those things that changes so fast (like pop culture). I think you're better off not trying to do it and focusing on the story instead, just in case you get something wrong. However some characters have slang language of their own, based on their personality. That usually works. Like in Forgive My Fins by Tera Lynn Childs, the main character kept using ocean-related slang because she was a mermaid. :)
Randi: Depends on the slang. Sometimes it annoys me where the author is trying too hard to be hip in more than one way, but sometimes it works well. I get annoyed when the 16 year olds in a book talk like 12 year olds, which is where a lot of authors go wrong with me. It all depends on your research.
Maddie: When the slang is used correctly, it's fine. The only problem with using relatively modern language is that in ten-fifteen years, the slang will no longer make sense.
Riv: It's all about balance. Homeostasis. Dynamic Equilibrium. (Sorry. Science class kicking in there.) We all know the golden rule about not being too spot on with the slang, because then you have ten pages and you've barely started getting your point across. But you can't talk like it's scripted.
And a golden rule, that will make me put a book down faster than you can say "apostrophe": contract your "I'm"s and "should've"s. If you don't, everything is too formal and awkward.
Also: When you're using slang, don't say "radical" or "groovy." If you do, people will think the MC is really square.
Chihuahua Zero: In the few cases I have seen, the author is usually trying too hard. Not using "teen slang" is one of those elements a lot of readers accept. Well, a little is fine for flavor, but teen slang is complicated, hard for even me to explain, and age fast. Not to mention some of it does some ridiculous. Ever heard the word "beast" being used as "cool"? It's probably our generation's version of "radical".
Alexis: I love it! It makes the novel feel more real - you don't want a character that's so proper and talks like they live under a rock! It makes the author connect with us even more, because we understand what they're saying! I like it even more when authors create their own slang - like the Maze Runner series! Because then you can use those words in real-life and people will have no clue what you're talking about! ;)
Emily C: I don’t really like using “teen slang” I find that people think that teenagers all share the same “slang” as everyone else, but that is totally not true. I have friends on Facebook from different cities and their “slang” is way different than anyone around me. So using “slang” doesn’t work because only certain people know what it means. It is also irritating. I hear enough “slang” at school, I don’t want to read it too.
7. How much money (if any) do you spend on books a month? And do you buy paper books or e-copies?
Gracie: I don't really buy a whole lot of books, but I usually go to the library around twice a month, taking out about 15 books each time. When I do buy books, though, I buy paper copies as I don't have an e-reader.
Riv: None, unless I'm desperate to get a book. The library is my best friend. I also get a pretty decent amount of books from giveaways, and occasionally for review. Very rarely do I buy.
Chihuahua Zero: For the first part, it depends. I usually get books from the library, but if I have giftcards (usually $20 amounts), I'm not afraid to go over and buy one extra with my own money. I sometimes feel like it's my duty as a reader to buy books. For the second part, I mostly buy paper books, but recently, I had been downloading e-books if they are free.
Emily C: Too much. I’ll buy at least one book a month, often more. I buy both paper and e-copies. I love my e-reader for travelling, but nothing beats the feeling of paper and ink in your hands.
Maddie: I try to take advantage of my school's library as much as possible. But other than that, maybe about twenty bucks, if that.
Alexis: I always get books from the library- the only time I ever buy books are during special sales or events at my local indie bookstores.
Randi: Depends. I'll usually spend about 20 dollars a month on books, but if I have more, that usually goes into the book fund as well.
Scotie: I don't have an exact number, but enough that my parents and friends say that I should buy stock in Barns and Noble. I don't use an e-Reader. I think they cool, but I prefer that physical aspect of a book.
Emily V: It varies, depending on what my income's like (if it exists) and if I can find what I want for a reasonable price. On average I would say no more than $5. I buy most of my books at library book sales, thrift stores, used bookstores, etc. so I'm almost always guaranteed a good deal. I've only bought one e-book in my life. I much prefer holding a book in my hands, and being able to smell the pages.
8. Have you thought about having kids? ("someday," when you reach a certain age/income/relationship situation, whatever)If I ask "Why do you want to have kids?" what would be the first thing to cross your mind? (second and third things to cross your mind are welcome too!)
Randi: Not really. I think it's a little early to thinking about that stuff. I can't imagine myself in that position yet. But whatever comes my way.
Maddie: Yes, definitely. I love the act of nurturing people who can't take care of themselves. It makes me feel important :)
Emily V: Yes. Starting a family has always been part of my life plan. I don't intend to fulfill that part of my plan until I am at least twenty and married though. I guess it just seems like the natural thing to do. Also, I LOVE little kids. I have spent a good amount of time babysitting and though not all of my experiences have been totally enjoyable ones, I much look forward to life as a mom. My own mother is really great (that's kind of a major understatement) and I guess that is a big part of why I want to be one. I guess I miss being little so I can't wait to relive my childhood through my own children.
Chihuahua Zero: One day. I'll probably adopt one, due to certain other factors I'll prefer to keep private at the moment. If I get married, I would welcome the obligation. Oh, and there are those little moments during the first few months of having a child where a writer has time to write by the crib.
Alexis: I've thought about it, but I know I do not want kids of my own. Any kid under the age of 8 kind of gets on my nerves! Of course I find them cute, but there's just something about them that sets me off. I was thinking about adoption, because there are so many orphaned kids out there - especially ones that are older that need homes. So if anything, I would adopt. The first reason I want a kid is because I want to guide them - show them wrong from right and help them make the right decisions. It would make me feel like I saved someone but helping them through everything and that's what parents are for!
Anon: I honestly don't know how to answer this one. I feel almost scared to have kids, but I know that feeling will most probably change. I can't see myself 5 years from now, let alone married.
Gracie: Yes, I have thought about having kids, and I would like to have them. I guess I want to have kids because I like kids, and I want to have a family.
Emily C: I definitely want to have kids. I already babysit all the time, and I love it. I find that children are a delight to be around. Honestly, when I think of “why I want to have kids” it is because I can’t imagine life without kids. I am always around kids (whether it be at the swim club I help coach, or the school my mom teaches at, wherever) and there is nothing that beats the feeling of having a kid give you a monstrous hug for no reason whatsoever. I seriously have trouble imagining my life without my own children.
Scotie: Yes!! I really really really really REALLY want to be a mom. I love kids. I want to be around them, they are so happy and light and carefree. My parents friend's child, is the cutest little boy I've ever seen. He is sweet and precious, and when he looks at his parents, it's like he is staring at heaven. I want a child to look at me like some day. However, I have no intention of becoming a teen mom. I'm not mentally ready for that kind of responsibility.
Aren't our teen spies/analysts fabulous??? And if you've thought of another question, or missed the post to ask it--don't worry. We'll be back with another ask-a-teen feature next month!