Thursday, December 8, 2016

YA Epidemics - So Much Angst

*YA Epidemics is an original feature started on my old blog,
 PaperFantasies. Each post singles out and highlights one annoying
cliché/trope prominent in many YA bestsellers. While I'll be bringing
a few of my favorites over to this blog in coming weeks, I chose to debut
a brand new Epidemic on The Bookaholic.

Don't you hate it when you make a bagel for breakfast, and it burns, and it obviously means your day is going to be hell, and probably your year, and just maybe your whole life, because you were seriously looking forward to that bagel?  But, just like everything and everyone else, it betrayed you in the end.  You are Bagel-less.  Forever alone.  Doomed to eat your blackened breakfast to nourish your blackened soul.  Because everything sucks.

Yeah, me too.

Certain YA might as well be renamed The Emo Handbook, because the sheer level of teen angst in them is astronomical.  It would almost be comical if it weren't so damned annoying.

Now, I get that teenagers are hormonal S.O.B's.  It hasn't been that long since I was one, myself.  (What?  It hasn't.  Don't give me that look.)  They're filled with this budding passion, a desire for independence hampered by parental guidelines and open-door rules whenever their crush gets to come over.  The only thing they don't know is how little they actually know, and it makes for one hell of a roller-coaster ride through adolescence.  I get that.  I remember it.  But some of these bestsellers...boy, they make my teenaged misery seem like a cakewalk.

Whether they're lamenting a break-up, filled with pessimism about the prospects of a new relationship, hating how misunderstood they are by every single adult in their lives, or just irrationally upset by the limitations of their wardrobe, these YA protagonists carry an entire world of resentment and misplaced anger in their hearts.  I've read books in which you would think the entire world was about to end over one bad date.  I've read others that would have you believe nothing in the universe is as tragic as its protag's slightly less-than-ideal home life.  Others still that make it seem like not one single person over the age of 25 can relate to our poor, fragile MC and his/her feelings. (Which, as a 26 year old, I can promise you isn't true.)  And I have to pause and ask myself, Why do so many authors think it's okay to perpetuate this glorification of adolescent misery?

I know that some of you are going to make the argument that these books are just trying to be relatable, to help the readers navigate their teenage years with a feeling of acceptance.  And many well-written YA novels do just that.  I will never forget my forays into Laurie Halse Anderson's stories, and how truly touched I was by them.  So I'm not talking about the appropriately ratcheted-up angst with this post.  The hauntingly real journeys into disorders and depression.  No, I'm talking about the novels that make angst out as just a way of life.  The books that turn every single obstacle into a woe-is-me, my life sucks, I am so unfortunate boo-hoo fest.

My biggest issue with this Epidemic is that it portrays a very unhealthy mindset for overall privileged kids to have.  Your world isn't going to crash around you because you overheard your crush talking about asking another girl/boy out.  Life won't end if you don't look as amazingly fantastic in your prom dress as you'd hoped.  And a burnt bagel doesn't signify anything but a need to turn the setting of your toaster down a couple of notches.  I was growing up right around the time of the big boom in emo-ness.  I saw first-hand how middle-class white kids with decent grades and loving parents would drape themselves in forced misery as if it were the coolest new fashion accessory.  I overheard groups of friends bragging about their latest cutting sessions, showing off their shallow, self-inflicted cat scratch wounds with disturbing pride.  I'll never forget wondering just how manufactured depression became such a cool thing, or noting with disgust how it trivialized real mental disorders.  It put those in need of actual help in a box labeled "Emo" or "Just A Phase", and stigmatized depression.  And reading novels that incorporate this harmful mindset and normalization makes me relive the frustration and fury I felt ten years ago.

I'm not sure if authors lost touch with what it was like to be a teenager, making it hard to see how inauthentic some of the angst really is, or if they just don't care as long as it can help further their plot.  But I do know that sometimes, these books really need to ratchet down the angst over every little inconvenience or let-down and give their audience a little more credit.  Even for teenagers, life usually isn't that bad.  No one wants to read a 300 page novel of nothing but misunderstandings, sadness, and self-righteous anger.

So, what are your thoughts? Am I exaggerating how irritating and sometimes even harmful this Epidemic can be, or do you more or less agree with me on this one? Comments and discussions are encouraged, so leave it below!


  1. Naahh I completely get what you mean. Too much angst is so annoying for me. It brings down the book for me.

    Also, points for all the New Girl gif's!

    1. Thanks! New Girl seriously has a gif for everything, it's awesome. Haha.


Drop a line! We love having your comments!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...