However, there's a few trends floating out in the choppy waters that are the YA genre right now, and I think they need to be called out.
5. Mentally ill brothers.
Examples: From What I Remember, All These Things I've Done.
Element: Every main character that has a brother, has a younger mentally ill brother.
Truth: Where the fuck did this one come from? In From What I Remember the brother has autism. In All These Things I've Done the brother has a head injury--which is kind of Mice of Men-ish. This gives the female protagonist something to worry about--something to think about. If she isn't worrying, if it isn't interfering with her relationship with Mr. Protagonist, then the character isn't "complicated' enough. Better add a mentally ill brother.
Solution: It's okay to make boy characters that don't need to be cared for or coddled. The brother doesn't have to exist or be present. The female protagonist has enough worries, what with the boy she has to gush over.
4. I need to rescue my brother!
Examples: Blood Red Road.
Element: The heroine is on a quest to rescue her brother (bonus points if he's mentally ill).
Truth: Why is it always the brother these days? I get it. Female characters can rescue boys. Male characters can rescue males (doesn't happen often). But it's always the brother the girl goes storming off after. Along the way she meets Mr. Right and they fall in love. For once, I think, I would like to see her find Mr. Right and then go rescue him. I don't think that's too much to ask for.
Solution: It isn't super important that she rescue anyone. People have traveled across the world for far lesser reasons than to simply "rescue their brother".
3. Super mysterious male characters.
Examples: Divergent, Wanderlust.
Element: The female protagonist needs a mysterious male character to fawn over.
|No abs? No tats?|
Must be a complete douche.
Solution: The female protagonist doesn't need to fawn over shit. She is not even required to like boys at all. If you can't write a male character, don't write a male character. Stephanie Perkins (Lola and the Boy Next Door ) gets mad props for writing interesting male characters.
2. Destined to be together.
Examples: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight.
Element: The universe needs the two main characters to be together or the world will explode.
Truth: It is not a requirement to make a story with a love plot in it. Love triangles do not need to exist just because they're popular. Romance doesn't need to be complicated.
Solution: Don't write a love plot.
1. World governments/the authorities giving a shit.
Examples: Divergent, Matched , The Hunger Games (any and all post-apocalyptic, dystopian novels).
Element: The authorities don't want the lead female protagonist and the lead male protagonist to canoodle. Because two canoodling teenagers will ruin their plans of global domination or subrogation.
Truth: No one gives a shit.
Solution: There isn't one.
In the case of most examples I've listed--I actually enjoyed the books. I don't mind an overused plot element if it's done correctly. There isn't a way around some plot devices, the general idea to not write them; that can be next to impossible. Real people do have mentally ill brothers, real people do have world governments stopping them from being together.
The idea that looks still matter, or that gender roles still matter, is what really bothers me. We can harp on and on and on about how young girls are given unrealistic expectations when it comes to their bodies. But when it comes to boys? Where are we drawing that line? When it comes to love triangles: why not two girls and a boy? And no, not the boy likes both girls, or the girls like the one boy, but the girl can't pick between the boy and the other girl.
These themes--the ones listed above--and the ones listed here in the conclusion are also found in adult literature. So don't go on about "exposing children" to "mature themes". If a kid has seen Sandy Hook footage, he's seen more violence in a news cast than he has a book. If he was in the room when Will & Grace was on? Don't get me started.
If Dumbledore can be gay--if Ron Weasley can be a cool ginger--then anything is possible in 2013.