Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Real Teen Answers

On Friday you asked. Today, our teen spies and analysts answer!

How much drug use are you willing to forgive a character for? For example: if a character is in a lot of pain, and does something really stupid, even though they know it's stupid, but they've just kind of given up, would you be willing to continue sympathizing with them, or would you just get annoyed at them for making obvious bad decisions?

GRACIE: I think the character always needs to change, in some way, by the end of the book. I know I've been frustrated many times by characters who have taken a long time to figure things out or finally make good decisions. So I guess eventually I would just get fed up with this character if they didn't change. However, that doesn't necessarily have to be their drug habits.

LAURA: It kind of depends on what pain they’re suffering, but I’d say yes, I would continue to sympathize with them. Although, if they continued to make obviously bad decisions, I would lose my respect for them.

RIV: I actually have a similar situation in my own WIP, with an emotionally pained MC who looks to...alternative methods. And, I think there are so many factors involved in something like this. How does the character come to drugs? How much do they know that it's wrong? Are there any other ways they can escape the pain? As long you can clearly express how your character is feeling, and how s/he's just so lost, and there's nothing else, then I can excuse it. I understand that first puff/snort/sip/etc. And from there, it's a downward spiral. But make me understand; I want to be sad too.

EMILY: I don't like reading about drug use at all. So I guess none.

LISSA: I don’t mind drug use in the books I read; I think, no matter what the situation is (be it where the character is in pain or because s/he’s just doping up with friends) makes the book realistic. That being said, I like it when drug use/abuse is dealt with carefully, and the second scenario from above often promotes ideas that I don’t think YA readers should have to read about. In the situation where the character is in a lot of pain, I’d ABSOLUTELY, 100% sympathize with them. I think, given the character’s feelings, that it’d be very difficult NOT to sympathize with the character.

ERICA: I don’t think it’s black and white like that for me. It depends on the novel – in some cases, I am a lot more forgiving and others I’m like, nope you’re done.


Do you live with one parent or are your parents married? What about your friends? Would a book where most of the adults are married seem unnatural to you?

EMILY: My parents are married. Most of my friends' parents are married too.

LISSA: I live with both my parents and the majority of people that I know do, too. (Then again, I live in Suburbia Hell.) I think that a book where most of the adults are married would be refreshing.

LAURA: My parents are married and the majority of my friends’ parents are, too. To be honest, I’ve been waiting a LONG time for a YA book where most adults are married. While I know a lot of people whose parents have separated, the other half is hardly represented enough.

RIV: Mine are married, and most of my friends are in similar positions Of course, it's in a community where divorce is looked down upon, and people usually "work things out" somehow.

GRACIE: My parents are married, and a lot of my friends and teenagers I know do have married parents. I don't think it would seem unnatural at all for most of the parents to be married. I think it's unnatural how often there is missing or single parents in YA. They are everywhere! I would love to see a set of YA parents that are married and have an actual relationship with their teenager beyond punishing them and having rules for them.

ERICA: My parents are married, and a good portion of my parents friends are as well. I don’t see why having adults married would seem unnatural to anyone – even if it’s something you don’t have in your life, it is in someone you know.

HEAs...Happily Ever After. Would you consider these a must have?

EMILY: In most cases, yes. I think sometimes unhappy endings are okay. A good example would be A Walk to Remember. The ending isn't "happy" per se, but it's beautiful just the same.

GRACIE: I don't care if the story ends perfectly. Sometimes it's nice, but really there can't be happily ever afters all the time.

ERICA: Nope – If a HEA works, great. If something that isn’t a HEA and works with the plot, that is fine as well.

RIV: Ooh. Good question. I'm a sucker for HEAs, but I want a little bit of bitterness still. I don't want complete happiness, I want something to go wrong. And also, I don't think some characters deserve happy endings. That's mean to say, but if the character's whole life, their whole story, is full of pain and bitterness, a nice HEA doesn't feel right to me.

LAURA: Not at all. While I love HEAs as much as the next person, I also love a good old-fashioned tragedy. Oh, wow. That sounded really morbid. I guess what I’m trying to say is that in real life, curing cancer or even getting the guy/girl isn’t a simple task that magically happens as the curtains go down. I love keepin’ it real…man.

LISSA: Meeeeeh. I mean, I like HEAs, but in certain stories, they’re really unfitting. I think the best solution, when you’re stuck wondering which situation would fit better (HEA or the opposite) is to leave the story somewhat open-ended, if possible. Give the story and characters enough closure, but leave the ending up to the reader, or sort of balanced.

What's your current favorite book? Why? Is it the characters or the plot that your remember days after finishing it?

ERICA: Current favorite book? As in one? I cannot pick! My favorite 2 more recent reads were Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg or False Memory by Dan Krokos – both were just really well written and had a plot that was awesome and really unique. I also loved the characters, and characters are one of the biggest determining factors for if I will love a book or not for me. I still am thinking about both.

EMILY: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, I guess. The main character is quirky and it's a really great book about being yourself. I think in this case, it's definitely the characters that I remember.

LAURA: Ah! This question is really tough. I’ve read so many amazing books lately that I don’t think I can just mention one. After discussing HEAs, it only seems fitting to mention Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler. I’m discovering that I’m maybe a little biased towards authors named Sarah, but I just LOVED this book. I read it at the start of the year and it’s stuck with me since. Everything about it was superb – the writing, the characters, the plot. Then there’s Before I Die by Jenny Downham. Woah. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I read it last month. The story is unshakable and utterly beautiful. And I can’t forget Crazy by Amy Reed. I actually read this one last year but I am literally unable to get it out of my mind. I worship Amy Reed; she creates the most outstanding characters.

RIV: My favorites rank pretty high, so it's rare that I will read a book that will make it to the top like that. My top book like, ever, is Graceling by Kristin Cashore. It has a brilliant plotline, with majorly kick-butt characters. And really terrifying antagonists. Looking at the list of some of my favorites, that's a pretty surefire combination. But, of course, if I had to choose one individual point: it's strong lead characters who don't take no for an answer. And it's a character-driven plot-line. Character-driven stories are a must.

GRACIE: Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. The writing is amazing, the characters are amazing, the story is amazing. I definitely love books because of the characters, though.

LISSA: Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, and it’s definitely because of the intense emotions that are packed between the pages of that book. Marchetta writes with an incredibly raw power that is, in actuality, really addictive (I’ve read JR 10 times since first reading it 2 years ago). Also, though, it’s the characters and plot – the characters because they’re so real, so complex, and the plot because it’s twisted and messy and beautiful.


Are there any stylistic trends you're tired of, or underrepresented ones you'd like to see more of in YA? For example, longer vs. shorter books, more slower-paced, literary writing style, or more third-person narration? What are your thoughts on epistolary novels, where they're partially or entirely in the form of letters or journal entries?

GRACIE: I think there's definitely still a lot of stylistic variety in YA, if you know where to look. I don't really care about POV or style or anything as long as it's good and fits the story and the characters. I do generally like normally written books, though, not anything in the form of letters or e-mails or poems or whatever. Journals are OK, although they have the potential to be really boring because all they are is telling. I think the Princess Diaries series is a good example of an effective journaling style, because the journals don't just go on about this happened today, and then this happened... blah blah blah.

LISSA: I don’t like epistolary novels, but I do like third-person narration and longer books with fast paces. I’m really tired of Insta-Love and really enjoy stories where the romance is sets in slowly, yet still in a whirlwind fashion.

EMILY: I think there are too many dialogue tags. Action Attribution makes for a stronger scene.

RIV: I'm actually very impartial to the books I read, in terms of first- or third-person. But I do, of course, love fast-pacing. I don't think the style of a book will make it or break it for me. For example, I don't go looking for poetry books, but I won't put them down.

The key part is writing whatever is most comfortable and natural for you. It's not about what the reader prefers, because a good story will get picked up anyway. It's about what YOU prefer. If you force yourself to, for example, write third person, we can tell how hard it is for you

ERICA: I feel like lately there’s a trend towards shorter books, which for me I am tired of. I don’t particularly like really short books, as I feel like the plot doesn’t ever get a chance to completely develop or if it does it is very rushed. I have read a ton of books in the last few months that are under 250 pages, and I always am thinking “I want more.”

I think epistolary novels are great – I definitely prefer ones that are partially written in the form of letters/journal entries, but either way it’s fine. I don’t really consider them any different than a normal book.


Do you like books where animals (like, say, the protagonist's pet dog or horse) feature as characters of sorts?

GRACIE: I haven't really seen that that often, and when I have it's been kind of in the background. I know I'd much rather see relationships develop between people than between a person and an animal, though. However, that's purely my own opinion.

EMILY: Mmm...if it's done well. It's a tricky thing to pull off, as we don't really know what their minds are like. But it can be a good thing. Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede is excellent.

RIV: I don't know how to answer this question in such a general way. Each situation is different. Do you mean that the animal has a personality, like in those 45,000 MG books that take place on a horse ranch? Or will the animal suddenly start talking? The former can be interesting as long as you do the ridiculous amount of research necessary, and the latter can be hard in that you need to avoid cliches.

LISSA: Nope. The only books I’ve ever enjoyed an animal as a leading character would be in the Iron Fey series, but even so, Grim took a while to grow on me. Maybe it’s because I’m not an animal person, per se, but I typically don’t enjoy those types of characters.

ERICA: It depends how it is done. In some cases, like in Jess Rothenberg’s The Catastrophic History of You and Me where Hamloaf, Brie’s dog, plays a pretty cool role that I say definitely! Hamloaf was awesome.

How much interest is there in spirituality in the teen community? Is it mainly to satisfy parents (go to church) or is there personal interest in knowing God?

GRACIE: From what I've seen at my school, very little. There's a few people who are interested, but not a lot.

ERICA: I think there’s an element of both in a lot of situations.

RIV: I live in a pretty religious community but, for the teens, there's a lot of being lost. Either you were brought up with it, and you feel it deeply, or you're still trying to figure it out, and you're teetering on a very narrow fence.

EMILY: I go to church because I want to. I enjoy it, and it helps me strengthen my relationship with my Heavenly Father.


HUGE thank yous to our spies and analysts and thank YOU for asking such awesome questions. 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!

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