1. Poorly Researched Minority Characters: While we give extra points to any writer who wants to incorporate diverse characters in their books, we really can’t stand when the character’s heritage is inserted in an overt, ridiculous manner that smacks of tokenism.
2. Foreign Phrases That Aren’t Authentic: We only speak two languages, but we hate it when Spanish phrases are inserted incorrectly — even if the character is speaking Spanglish. All it takes is asking someone who speaks the language fluently to read your manuscript to correct these things.
3. Ubiquitous “Baby,” “Babe,” and Other Pet Names: Yes, we know plenty of couples who refer to each other as a term of endearment, but EVERY SINGLE TIME — No. Sometimes an otherwise compelling romance is nearly ruined by an author’s overuse of “baby” or “babe.”
4. Settling a Love Triangle With Death: Few love triangles are resolved perfectly, because someone is always hurt. Of course, some are super obvious (Dimitri and Rose, say), but others are heart-wrenching. The worst is when a love triangle is resolved by killing off one of the characters. That really upsets us, unless there are other pressing reasons the death is necessary.
5. Absentee Parents: We realize that most young adult literature is by definition going to concentrate on the young adults (of course!), but we’re skeptical of books where the parents are mysteriously absent or just don’t have developed personalities. We don’t need the parents to be GOOD parents (although those are always a lovely, refreshing thing, like in “Eleanor & Park” or “The Fault in Our Stars”), but they need to be THERE.
6. Whiny Protagonists: Diana is especially bothered by whiny (usually female) protagonists who are so self-absorbed that all they do is complain and make everything about themselves. I happen to think most teenagers are by nature self-absorbed, but Diana says there’s normal adolescent narcissism and there’s obnoxious EVERYTHING IS ABOUT ME, and she is sensitive to when the line is crossed.
7. Instalove: Instant, electric attraction? Bring it on! But please don’t make have characters fall in love at first sight and then skip over any substantive development of their relationship and go straight to a declaration of love.
8. Graphic love scenes: Most YA books have love stories, and we are huge fans of love stories. But love scenes are tricky: some authors can write amazing love scenes and leave things to the imagination, but others spend way too many words describing specific body parts and positions when there’s really no need to be so graphic… Even the inexperienced teens know what you’re talking about without quite so much descriptive language. Personally, we prefer love scenes that are about the emotional connection and not just the physical one.
9. Predictable plots: Some stories are so easy to predict: girl meets boy, girl hates boy, boy does something to redeem himself in her eyes, girl falls in love with boy, girl loses boy, girl gets boy at the end. The best stories are the ones where you’re not really sure what’s going to happen, or there is some unforeseen twist to the plot. If we can figure out every story line early on, it makes the book easy to read but a lot less fun.
10. Characters that disappear: We love “supporting characters” in books. We are big fans of awesome best friends. Sadly, in some books those characters just kind of fade into the distance and lose momentum. All of a sudden you’re left wondering, “What happened to so and so?” Best friends in YA literature are so important, don’t just drop them in the middle of a book or series.
Thanks to The Broke and the Bookish for hosting Top Ten Tuesday.