Or more accurately, I didn’t forget – instead, I just didn’t see the post notification in my inbox! I subscribe to a TON of blogs and therefore my email is always cluttered with new messages, so I missed the notification this time around. Honestly, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened before – this is the first TCWT blog chain I’ve missed since, like, I joined two or three years ago.
Anyway. I really like participating in the chain, and I liked the prompt (as usual!), so I’m going to take part in this thing on my own. #rebel
“What is something you feel is generally written well in fiction? What is something you feel is generally written poorly?”
I’m going to flip this question around and answer the second part first. ACTUALLY, what I’m going to do is discuss the second part in this post and the rest in another post, probably sometime next week.
To be honest, there are a lot of things that I think are poorly written in fiction. This post’s length would be out of control if I listed all of them, though, so I’m going to limit myself to discussing just one.
And I’ve chosen something really specific: Relationships in dystopian YA.
I love dystopian stories, and I love YA, so this subgenre is something I devour. Dystopian YA doesn’t always leave me satisfied, though, because I have SO MANY PROBLEMS with the way relationships are written about in those books.
To begin with, the amount of romance in these books is just ridiculous. Like, seriously? That’s not the point of these books! Maybe we should make up a name for this sub-sub-genre; in the spirit of paranormal romance, I’m thinking it should be “dystopian romance.”
I want to read about battles for one’s life and people overcoming the odds and governments being overthrown. I hate when a book promises me all these things and then sneaks in a bunch of kissy scenes.
An example? The Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth. I commend Ms. Roth for the intriguing dystopian WORLD she created, but I’m less than thrilled with the dystopian STORY she wrote. I love the idea of factions and “divergence,” and I live pretty close to Chicago, so I loved reading about a post-apocalyptic version of that city.
I did not love reading Tris’s endless make-out scenes with Four. GAH. They were just so unnecessary! Their whole romance was so unnecessary! I didn’t observe any romantic chemistry between those two, but hey – even if I had, I would still think that particular subplot was unnecessary. It felt… spliced in? Shoved where it didn’t belong? It was a perfectly decent dystopian story up until they started making out, and then pages upon PAGES were lost to this little side-story. I actually quit reading Insurgent about 150 pages in because I was so frustrated by how slowly the “let’s defeat Erudite and get this situation under control” plot was moving.
I WILL give Divergent points for not including a love triangle, though. I won’t deny that love triangles (fictional ones, that is) can sometimes be good, but I’ve read so many stories with boring/bad ones that I think it’s probably best for authors to avoid them unless they really, really know what they are doing.
Case in point: Matched. (Hey, look – another YA dystopian trilogy that I just couldn’t bear to finish!) The love triangle in that book was SO SILLY. It was literally the entire point of the story, yet it wasn’t even well written.
I love Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, I really do, but sometimes I also kind of hate
it for what it did to YA dystopian novels. Yes, it made that genre hugely popular (a fact for which I am ever grateful), but it also seemingly made a whole bunch of authors think that they TOO should include a love triangle.
Look, guys, it’s just not necessary. For heaven’s sake, The Hunger Games is more of a CRITIQUE of love triangles than anything else; it’s a media ploy and Katniss hates it. Unless a love triangle is A) interesting and B) absolutely necessary to the protagonist’s character development, I really don’t see the point in including one.
I’m not happy with the lack of queer romance in YA dystopians, either. Like, where are all the gay and bi and trans people in those stories? Were they all murdered/driven into hiding (by society, an oppressive government, et cetera)? SERIOUSLY. Where are they?!
And while we’re on the subject, let me just say that I think the recurring theme of “straight couple in a YA dystopian complains about the government’s disapproval of their relationship” is SO SILLY. Like, wow, a world in which people are disrespected and called disgusting for who they love? I wonder where I’ve seen THAT before.
(FYI, this article is recommended reading if you’d like to know more: “The Government Can’t Stop Our Heterosexual Love: YA Dystopia From A Gay Perspective.”)
So basically, my general attitude towards romance in YA dystopians is “Um, how about about no?” I want less romance, and fewer love triangles, and if we absolutely HAVE to have the aforementioned items, then can we please please please queer up YA dystopians?
And not just any kind of friendship, either. I’ll use The Hunger Games as an example here since pretty much everyone knows about it: I’m not looking for excellent friendships between minor characters (think Johanna and Finnick), or for great friendships between the main character and someone else (Katniss and Haymitch). Such relationships are awesome, of course. But I already see them pretty often in fiction.
I want to read about a fictional friendship that is the MAIN relationship, not merely A relationship.
Now that I’ve complained extensively to all of you, I think it’s only fair for me to recommend a few of the YA dystopian stories that DID satisfy me. It’s like I said before: If you’re going to include romance/a love triangle/whatever, at least do a good job with it. The following stories do a good job.
If you’re looking for well-written romance in YA dystopians: Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles has a multitude of romantic subplots that are swoon-worthy AND complex.
If you’re looking for worthwhile love triangles in YA dystopians: I know of nothing better than Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, I’m afraid. Hey, these books really explored the ins and outs and ups and downs of trying to pretend you’re in love with two boys at once. (Gosh, I couldn’t even manage to do that with one boy…)
If you’re looking for queer romance in YA dystopians: Malinda Lo’s Imrian Duology, comprised of Adaptation and Inheritance, has a bisexual protagonist. (And an AMAZING love triangle, as well! Its resolution is perfect and brilliant and oh my gosh I could go on and on and on but I won’t. Go read it. Now.)
If you’re looking for friendship in YA dystopians: V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd isn’t YA (and it’s definitely not new, either) but it was the ONLY example I could think of. (Now do you see why I’m grumpy about relationships in dystopian stories?) I love the dysfunctional-yet-fiercely-loyal friendship between V and Evey Hammond – together, they’re rather fond of anarchy and blowing up old landmarks and overthrowing the government.
(Also, can I just say their relationship with Valerie is pretty awesome too, considering how they don’t even meet/interact with her? Like, how is it that Moore can write a complex friendship between people who never meet, but some authors can’t even insert believable romantic chemistry between their constantly-making-out characters?)
What is something you think is generally poorly written in fiction? And what are your YA dystopian pet peeves? I’d love to know!