I love fiction. I mean, I must right? I write it for a living. But even the most fictitious tales have some amount of reality. People are people. They have emotions, flaws, and make real mistakes, learning from them.
The Denazen books, my YA paranormal series, revolve around a girl named Dez. Dez is kind of a unique heroine. She isn’t your typical wallflower YA girl waiting for the guy to stomp in and save her. She’s rebellious, stubborn, and does things a normal teenager might do… Meaning, she curses, drinks alcohol, and sneaks out of the house to parties. She’s also not a virgin.
I’ll wait. You can gasp now.
So why did I make these things a part of Dez’s personality? Because, like it or not, these are things teenagers do. I’m not saying YA books should be a collection of foul-mouthed, drunk characters hopping from bed to bed, but not acknowledging these things in YA—at least a little—irritates me.
And I’m not the only one.
I had an awesome conversation with a teen reader at a book signing I did a few weeks ago. She thanked me for making Dez real, and said she didn’t read much YA anymore because she felt many authors glossed over the darker issues teens face by making their heroine’s too perfect. She felt that by presenting teens in fiction in such an unrealistic way—in her opinion—it was almost like the publishing industry was “talking down” to her.
Keep in mind these are opinions—mine and the reader’s—and everyone will have a different one. So now it’s your turn. Tell us how you prefer your YA characters. Do you like it when YA books keep things hidden behind the curtain, glossing over the details, or do you prefer an in-your-face approach showcasing the issues teens deal with on a day to day basis?