Lacy Literacy

Book Reviews, Discussions, Listicles, More

I was particularly excited when I saw the prompt for #BroodyBFF Challenge 6. I’ve been wanting to talk about what Young Adult Contemporaries lack in representing the High School Experience for a while now.


 

Now, let me start off by saying that I don’t ever expect any book to depict what my high school experience was like. I was in a very….. unique situation. Without getting too much into it, I went to a tiny private, christian high school. It was regarded as THE joke private high school of the county. I either got two responses when I told people I went there: they mispronounced the name and had never heard of it, or they apologized because they felt so bad that I went there. The only way I can describe the experience is that it was like going to Greendale Community College but in high school form.

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I still have a hard time believing my high school experience wasn’t some mass hallucination brought on by the nearby landfill leaking toxic fumes. But I digress. Despite not expecting to see my exact high school environment replicated in a Contemporary Young Adult novel, there are a ton of experiences from it that I’d love to see represented in YAs more often.


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So much of the teenage experience can be filled with worrying about homework, AP classes, and tests. However, a good deal of Contemporary Young Adults don’t seem to reflect that.

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While reading the common denominator Contemporary Young Adult novels, you wouldn’t even know the main characters were attending High School beyond the fact that they’re worrying about Prom. The typical high school student is at school from 8am-3pm five days a week. And that’s if they’re not in clubs, sports, or other extra-circulars. Today, teenagers have to deal with an incredible amount of pressure at school and spend most of their day there, not having that aspect of teenage life in Contemporary YA doesn’t feel realistic.

 


school type

When I say “school type diversity” I mean having Contemporary Young Adult novels that focus on other schooling paths for teenagers besides the traditional public high school path. Despite there being a ton of alternative means of education, I rarely see them represented.

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It could be a teenager taking classes at a Community College to get ahead or do a high school completion class like in the upcoming book Nice Try, Jane Sinner. It could be an online or blended school with protagonists who are going there because they are elite athletes, child actors, or are dealing with chronic illness. It could be going to an international school set in places other than Europe. It could be an arts schools like in I’ll Give You the Sun or Noteworthy. Or it could be a religious school with queer protagonists who have to navigate their faith (or lack their of), sexuality, and gender in a setting that can be restrictive (as a bisexual kid who went to private christian school their entire life until college, I would’ve love to read something like that).

There’s room for so many different narratives and interesting dialogue about how the different schools we go to impact us.

 


drama filled group

My school, much like Greendale, was obsessed with group projects. During my senior year, I had maybe 2 projects that weren’t group projects. There aren’t any Young Adult Books that I’ve read that revolve around or heavily involve a group project. I find this unfortunate because the potential with group projects plots is ENDLESS (not to mention there’s always Group Project Drama).

Need a way to force two enemies together in the long term and then have them fall in love? Do a Group Project Plot. Need a way to reunite former Best Friends and then have them come to terms with what tore them apart? Do a Group Project Plot. Need a way to gather a band of unlikely misfits all needing to work together to meet their different end goals? Do a Group Project Plot.

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non-football playingFor teenagers who play sports, the high school experience cannot be separated from sports. LITERALLY everything is tied up in it. It’s hard to relate to Contemporary YAs when they don’t have athlete protagonists because of how influential it was on every aspect of my teenage life.

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When I have read Contemporary YAs that feature athletes, it seems like sports are only mentioned off handedly, which isn’t anything like what playing high school sports is like. My days in high school were filled with leaving school early for tennis matches, staying at school until 5pm for soccer practice, and chaotic bus rides to swim meets. Then, there was club practice on top of it. It was definitely not just an afterthought.

Some recent Contemporary Young Adult novels like I Believe In a Thing Called Love & Ramona Blue feature heroines who play Soccer and Swim. I would love to see more Contemporary YA protagonists, especially heroines, playing lesser focused on sports. I mean, I’ve never read a Contemporary YA novel about a Water Polo Player or a Rowing Team (or a Break Dancing team like my high school had).


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And don’t forget to add Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character to your TBR!

 

24 thoughts on “Young Adult Contemporaries & their Failure to Represent the High School Experience —#BroodyBFF Challenge 6

  1. I LOVE THIS POST. Seriously, I had a very non-traditional high school experience as well even though I went to a pretty traditional public high school. The only thing in pop culture to come remotely close to portraying my high school experience was “The Art of Discourse” episode of Community. So yeah, I really appreciate this post. Group projects are the WORST and I can’t believe that I haven’t realized how few books actually deal with group projects.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. lacyliteracy says:

      Thanks!

      OMG that episode.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Holly says:

    I LOVE your point about group projects!! I hated them when I was in high school because there was always so much drama… but it would make for such a good plot device! Awesome post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. lacyliteracy says:

      Thanks so much!

      There wasn’t one group project I did that didn’t have a fight break out over the course of the project 😂.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is such a great post! I actually had an idea for a discussion post very similar to this, but instead of high school stuff I’d like to see more of in YA, it would be about common high school tropes found in YA that aren’t very accurate. After reading this I’m feeling inspired to write it! I definitely agree with all the points you made. I’m not personally an athlete, but so much of my school experience revolves around all the different sports they have, not just football. Also I’d like to see more about stuff like clubs, yearbook staff (which is where I spend a considerable portion of my time), drama, or art class! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. lacyliteracy says:

      Thanks!I’m glad I could inspire you 😭💜. I’d love to see you discuss high school YA tropes!!! I think it’s really interesting as to why certain tropes are so overused despite them not being things high schoolers actually experience.

      Football was the most hated sport at my high school because they were just terrible and lost all their games. Naturally, no one wanted to watch that. The popular sports to watch were tennis and volleyball, so I always found it weird to read YAs were football was idolized.

      And yes to more clubs!! That’s so cool that you do yearbook staff. There could be such interesting plots revolving around creating a yearbook 👀.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Omg there really could be! I’ve seen one or two rare books about yearbook staff, but I’d prefer to just read a YA with a subplot where the MC is a part of the staff.

        At my school football is admittedly the most popular sport, since we have a pretty successful team. But a lot of attention is still focused on other sports, I’d really like to read more about them in YA!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I love your use of gifs. 😀 YA definitely needs better representation. I go to a tiny school too and I don’t think I’ve read a single book about one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. lacyliteracy says:

      Thanks! 😂

      Me either. Small schools have such a unique environment, which meant I could never relate to YAs set in big high schools. Everyone in my grade was up in each other’s business because there were so few of us. I’d love to see someone take on how that type of environment effects teenagers.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Lauren says:

    I love this post! I agree about the Group Projects. I had sooo many during my last two years in high school and I hated all of them (mainly because I was that one kid who always did all the work while the others sat around)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. lacyliteracy says:

      Ahh Thanks!

      I felt the same! I always ended up doing so much of the work because there was that one kid who didn’t do anything and because I didn’t trust the other people in my group to pull it off 😂.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lauren says:

        I can relate so much to not trusting others 😂😄

        Like

  6. kozbisa says:

    High school now is so different from when I went (way back when), but I taught chemistry in a high school for 12 years, so I did get to observe a lot. I am struggling to think of a book that fits all that, but group projects could definitely provide a conflict for a story (still hate them!) There was a book, where the girl crumbled under the pressure of her AP classes, The Best Possible Answer, and I recently read All Things New, which took place in an alternative type school, but when I think of the things you listed, I have seen them more in boarding school books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. lacyliteracy says:

      Yeah, I see boarding schools a lot. If the high school setting for a YA isn’t a public high school school, 99% of the time it’s a boarding school.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This post is so interesting – you bring up so many good points that are rarely discussed in YA contemporary. What I also find to be misleading in YA is that many characters have tattoos – in my experience, there were two or three people who had small tattoos, nothing like what is depicted in contemporaries that I read! Amazing post, AJ! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. lacyliteracy says:

      I knew maybe 2 people in high school that had tattoos lol. And considering you can’t get tattoos here until you’re 18, having a high schooler covered in tattoos isn’t quite realistic.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I absolutely love this post! Since I live in The Netherlands no YA book really represents my experience since American middle school/high school is very different from Dutch secondary school. I already love it when a YA book takes largely place inside the school though haha. I wonder if adult authors just forgot how much time they actually spent in school? Or do they not want to remember 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. lacyliteracy says:

      Thanks! I’d love to see more Young Adult books that take place in other countries. I love seeing how school systems work in different places because the US school system is messed up lol.

      Yes!!! I think it’s so easy for adults to forget how much time they spent in high school in favor of romanticizing their youth. Today teenagers are challenged so much more in high school, and are expected to join clubs and do sports. The bar is set extremely higher than it was when adults were teenagers.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. fefelemos says:

    Now that you mentioned it, it’s funny how most of the YA novels don’t portray the universe of High School. If I try really hard, I will faintly remember The Princess Diaries (because a lot of her journal entries would be written in class), or maybe The Magic in Manhattan Series, since the character was super obsessed with being popular. But overall the contemporary YA novels do not portray their lives correctly. Well pointed out.

    Like

  10. I love your post! I’ve often noticed the “it’s there because it has to be” tone that the high school setting has. It’ll be discussed in the beginning of the story as a means of introducing characters, then school becomes an arbitrary backdrop for some scene or another. Usually in the cafeteria. I’ve recently started writing my first YA book and think that your suggestions are fantastic for anyone in my position.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. lacyliteracy says:

      Thank You. Yes, the High school setting can seem like such an afterthought.

      Good luck on your book!

      Liked by 1 person

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