It’s been a long time since we had a nice rant and both Judith and I feel there’s no time like the present. Or maybe it’s just that we got so sick of bitching to each other about all our YA complaints that we’ve decided to drag you all down with us. But just like how the new Step Up movie is using dance as a form of revolution (btw, seriously??) we are going to use our rant as a voice of the people!
That being said this rant is slightly different than my previous cautionary tale. This is not about a specific author but about things we keep seeing over and over again in books and can no longer keep quiet about. Also, this is a co-sponsored Judith/Ellen rant, rather than a solo fight against bad writing and friends who loan you awful books with no warning of what is about to come. So let’s get started.
While we do love your books we are troubled by the serious lack of research and editing that runs rampant through current YA novels. I know that many would disagree but it is our feeling that before pressing that “publish” button (not that I have any idea how this actually works) everything should be triple checked and edited to the nth degree. As we all know, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Here are just a few of our major pet peeves:
1) New York City. I understand that setting your book in NYC offers a wealth of opportunities that other cities just don’t provide. After all, world famous supermodels normally don’t mingle with rock stars in Syracuse. But if you’re going to set your book in New York PLEASE for the love of Prada get a few things right. First of all – no one in NYC drives a car. While the über-rich do have drivers who are at their disposal 24/7, the average person never drives in the city. Hell, I lived in New York for 9 years without ever driving. I’m sick of all these stories where every character owns and drives their own car and has no trouble finding parking. Ridiculous. Second – yes, the island of Manhattan is only 13.5 miles long but please keep in mind that this is not like driving your average 13.5 miles. You can’t get from the Upper West Side to Wall Street in 15 minutes, even though they’re like 5 miles apart. Think an hour at least, unless you get caught in a traffic jam or your train is running on a Sunday schedule. Ugh and don’t even get me started on random MTA construction, who knows what that’ll do to your journey. Trips from Wall Street to Brooklyn can take 20 minutes or an hour and a half depending on stupid construction (and that’s a mile as the crow flies).
2) Google is your friend. I recently read a book where not only did one character get sooo excited that her boyfriend flew “100 miles” from California to Princeton, NJ to see her but then took her to a hotel roof-top where “she could now see clearly most of the land that made up New Jersey. From here she had a three-hundred-sixty degree view of the city.” (Direct quote). Seriously? A two second Google search will show you that the distance from Cali to NJ is over 2,500 miles. And New Jersey is a state not a city!! Yes, maybe I’m overly sensitive about this since it’s currently (lamentably?) the state in which both Judith and I live but I’m pretty sure no one on Earth has escaped the wonderfulness that is Jersey Shore and should for that reason, at the very least, realize that NJ is a state which cannot be viewed in its entirety while visiting a rooftop bar. Jeesh.
3) Basic word usage. Normally little things like grammar and the correct word choice don’t bother me–oh, who am I kidding?! They do. In fact, they bother me a lot! So much so that I have to point this out to all the authors who do it: ‘drug’ is not the past tense of ‘drag’. OMG! This has cropped up so much lately that it’s ridiculous. Let me say it again, DRUG IS NOT THE PAST TENSE OF DRAG.
Along the same vein, the phrase is ‘intents and purposes’ not ‘intensive purposes’. I don’t even want to ponder what ‘intensive purposes’ means. Critical purposes? I have to admit: I made this rookie mistake oh way back in 1996 when I was fresh and young and had only heard adults say it around me and wanted to appear worldly and smart in my writing. It took a few years and a lot of reading to learn how stupid and naive it sounded when I wrote ‘intensive purposes’. But I am telling you now, you are a writer and it doesn’t make any sense so stop. Just stop.
4) A comma is not a period. I repeat, a comma is not a period. So many writers these days don’t seem to understand what a sentence is and where it stops. Now, I’m all for your freedom of expression: you should be able to use a comma however you want in a loosey goosey fashion that makes your writing seem poetic or lyrical or whatever you want to call it. But as soon as all those commas start to annoy me, it’s done. Over. Finished. Time to revert to using a period once again. And let’s be honest here, the period has been in use for a long time because it obviously works.
5) Stupid character names. For the love of all that is holy, what is with all the crazy and heavy handed character names lately? What happened to Sarah and John? LJ Smith wrote using names like Jenny and Matt and she’s now an internationally famous author with two TV series under her belt. Believe me: if she can do it, you can too. But no, I am consistently subjected to a slew of names like Finn, Mackenzie, Beau, Sawyer, Jude, Dank, Celeste, Lucy, etc. Now don’t get me wrong. These are good names (except maybe Dank cause that’s just crazypants). There is nothing wrong with them. My problem is that not just one or two characters has crazy names because even that would be acceptable. No, the entire character set has whacked out trendy names and it just makes it difficult to read and connect with them.
So there you have it, our top YA pet peeves (that come to mind, I’m sure next time we chat we’ll realize a few we’ve forgotten). Now really, is all this too much to ask? To all the authors out there please heed these few warnings and your books will be so much better for it! At the very least think of poor Judith and I who spend SO much time complaining to each other ad nauseum and are hoping to make the world a better place for all the book bloggers out there!
Ellen and Judith