Saturday, 14 March 2015

Fiction with Flaws | 3 YA Books That Step Away From Cliches


Do you ever notice in fiction that certain elements of people's lives are just too perfect? Obviously not all elements as there would be no story but I've been noticing a lot of cliches in YA fiction. These include heroines always being attractive and athletic, relationships ending extremely happily or extremely sadly and the unrequited love interests turning out to be perfect. They aren't huge things and very easy to overlook but in my opinion they can be damaging. YA fiction is pretty great for creating stories that a great number of people can relate to but these are a few things that have the potential to create unrealistic expectations of life. This links in with a previous post, Why Isn't My Life Like That? There are three books that defy these cliches and set s great example, that I thought I'd talk about today!

Eleanor and Park are misfits, she's got bright red hair, the wrong clothes and she's overweight, he's half white, half Korean and loves to wear eyeliner. They form a connection through mixtapes on their daily bus journeys and begin a relationship. It's actually a beautiful love story, they fall in love with the whole of each other, their supposed flaws and all. The main thing that is interesting is Eleanor's size as a huge majority of YA heroines are slim and often athletic. I saw this article on Buzzfeed by Kaye Toal about how finding a fat YA heroine changed her life. It's a beautifully written piece and really raises some important questions. The part that really shocked me was this observation about Harry Potter: 

"All character flaws were forgiven in Harry Potter’s world except the cardinal sin of being fat; Uncle Vernon, Aunt Marge, Dudley, Professor Umbridge were all described as obese, and every time it was used as a hammer to drive home their innate unpleasantness. Not only were they cruel and stupid, they were fat! How disgusting! Right, kids? And, when Dudley was finally less unpleasant in book seven and said his borderline-heartfelt good-bye to Harry, all his fat had become muscle. Fascinating.

E&P shows teens that it isn't just traditionally attractive people who will find love. Being large or small is not part of your character and Rainbow Rowell is paving the way to stopping fat shaming in fiction!

Paper Towns - John Green *possible spoiler alert*
Quentin (Q) is in love with Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar, so when she turns up in the middle of the night to take him on a whirlwind adventure pulling pranks, he can't quite believe it. But in the morning she has completely disappeared and nobody knows where she's gone, Q takes it upon himself to find her. However is he chasing after the girl of his dreams or an illusion? 
In a lot of books people realise that what they thought they wanted wasn't real, but for some reason this one stuck in my mind. I think it's because Margo turned out to be so different from the cool girl who has her life figured out that Q had pictured her to be. In a lot of YA, the girl usually get's her crush or the crush turns out to be horrible. In this, it steps away from that and Q just has to come to terms with the fact that she is in no way perfect and not the person he fell in love with but still a friend. That's okay. Not everything turns out perfectly and sometimes we have to be fine with the fact that life is unexpected.
Just the title tells you that this is going to be a bit different from the average YA book! The novel takes the form of a letter from Min to her ex boyfriend, Ed, retelling their relationship and why they broke up. Maybe you think that it sounds boring, teens break up all the time, right? Think again, this story takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions and it's how realistic it is that draws you in. I loved reading this book as it shows you that having a relationship that doesn't work out exactly the way you want it is perfectly fine. It is not usually anyone's fault for your differences and if it is, then you can just move on. We know the relationship is doomed from the beginning but as the story progresses we really get to know these two people and see all the factors that split them apart.

Have you read any similar books? What do you think about these cliches?
Have a wonderful week!
Hattie xo

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