BOOKS HAVE MANY FEATURES
And sometimes, they can make you thank the skies they exist or make you turn around and walk away from a book hoping to never see it again. They can be the be-all and end-all and it all depends on how they've been used. They either evoke sunshine-y happiness or fierce anger from readers. The millions of times I've come across such traits has driven me to write about them. So, how can they be used to ensure no blood is shed? Well...
Here are five of such traits we have all definitely come across in YA books and have felt emotions on polar ends of the spectrum and how they make us feel so:
1. Multiple POVs
This trait has cropped up in countless books and definitely warrants either contentment or frustration.
Done right ✔: Providing readers with a whole new world by: telling the story from the point of view of a character with either a shocking difference from the protagonist's personality or deep in a situation quite unlike the protagonist's. Maybe even both. Like the two sides of a battle or a wild goose chase.
Done wrong ✘: POV switches acting as fillers. Pointless things used to bide time, repeating the events of a story with a different voice only to end up with the same conclusion. A great way to kill suspense. But worst of all, multiple POVs from characters who sound the SAME. There is no point of POV switches if characters all have the personality of a paper plate, how would I tell apart the characters without their names? YOU'RE NOT SUSAN, BUT YOU SOUND LIKE HER.
My passion on the subject had fuelled a post not too long ago, read more about my multiple POV saviours and pet peeves right here.
2. Mental illness representation
Mental illness rep has come a long way since the early YA books and readers everywhere rejoice at the fact.
Done right ✔: Writing about mental illness accurately and beautifully, highlighting the struggles and hurdles faced by individuals. but some see mental illness simply as another factor to drive the thrill of a plot. Writing a character with a mental illness and shedding light on the obstacles and everyday struggles a character faces is THE way to climb the top-rep list.
Done wrong ✘: Mental illness is the plot itself. The hurdle. The story revolving around solely how the character 'overcomes' the illness like it's just another factor to drive the thrill of a plot. That's just not the way to go. Well, it is if the way is getting your book buried.
3. 'Relatability' factor
YA books target a teen audience because in some way, shape or form, they mention events a teenager might relate to.
Done right ✔: We can relate. To real people. Doing real things. Yes, we eat and sleep and struggle, study and waste our time. It is the so RARE to find a character in a YA fantasy taking a nap or eating or walking to find something and forgetting what they were searching for. THEY AREN'T EVEN HUMAN. If you've got that stuff in a book, you're sorted.
Done wrong ✘: They won't let you relate. The book just refuses you the right to nod in agreement. 'Relatability? No, I'm sorry, never heard of it'. They're written like everyone would rather read about someone who eats 3 meals every 5728 years and sleeps for the same amount of hours. No, Bob, I am human. No, we don't run between parties and speak in Wingdings. What world do you live in?
4. Introducing a new protagonist
You know those books that throw in a brand new main character into the sequel. This is what the author must think: 'I'll add new clothes, new motives, new food - OH, AND A NEW PERSON'.
Done right ✔: It's a well developed character who ties in perfectly with the old protagonist and plot. Do that and you're sorted. WE SHALL SHOWER THE LOVE. That is it.
Done wrong ✘: Who is this protagonist? I do not like this person and shall proceed to roll my eyes, close the book and walk away. Look what you've done now, Susan. We picked this sequel up because the protagonist in the first book was so lovable. Who is this monster? One of the main reasons readers decide to read a sequel is because they formed a connection to the protagonist during the first book and grew to love them. Drastically changing the character puts the idea of death into heads. The protagonist will be killed off and this person here is the book's safety net. Nope, I'm leaving.
Authors are gifted. With a single sentence they can make you itch to read another chapter. Cliffhangers are magical, I tell you. Never have I come across a sentence on a page that has made me forget I have a 4728 chores to do. You read it, it hits you and all of a sudden, you've been reading for 24 hours straight.
Done right ✔: These powerful little blighters can be two words long or 20, it wouldn't matter. It wraps up a chapter or whole novel and leaves you with a desperate urge to turn the page. Unless it's a book's final chapter and you have to wait for the next installment. In that case, no one can help you. Cliffhangers should be UNPREDICTABLE. Enough to do the job of building up suspense only to leave it at its peak. Like motivation (read: excuse) to read another chapter.
Done wrong ✘: A weak little thing that does nothing for the book. A futile attempt to persuade you to turn the page but garners nothing but a shrug. It doesn't help if the whole chapter had plateaued in terms of suspense. Say you were reading a bland chapter and you're toward the end, expecting a mind-blowing sentence to push you to read on. And you get... a poor excuse of a cliffhanger. Telling you everything you already knew and was too long for its own good. No. Where is the unpredictability? The thrill? Oh, down the drain. If you read a cliffhanger and react with only a shrug, it's done wrong.
All five of these features done right would make for an amazing read. You'll never be doubtful whilst telling a great book from a not-so-great one. Recommend away!
Your turn! Do you often come across these traits done right? Or are there quite a few misses? Let's talk!