The other day I finished reading a Young Adult book that I felt was kind of well, average. The writing was good, the scenes were set pretty well, but there was just something that bothered me about the plot. It was a contemporary ya action novel that seemed to be inspired by the Jason Bourne spy movies. It was fun, it was well written, but why didn’t it connect with me? I did also have trouble emotionally connecting with the hero, but I really think it’s because I didn’t believe it.It didn’t connect because the world this seventeen year old lives in could be my own world. I had to fight my own reality and couldn’t immerse myself completely into the story.
Is that why it’ easier to accept a 17 year old saving the world or falling in love when it’s a Fantasy novel?
- World building: When I read V. E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series, or Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen series, I didn’t have time to stop and question the logistics, emotional capacity, training, and fortitude of the main characters. I was too busy immersing myself in the world they were building. Trying to figure out the schematics of jumping Londons distracted me from scoffing at such a young person single handedly saving her race. (yeah, I mixed the plots a bit to prove my point, but you get the drift.)
- Magic: It may be a tired trope, but if our hero or heroine has a magical power, that power trumps how old they are. 17? Pshaw! This girl can fling lightening out of her hands! This guy is a billionaire who has created a virtual reality game that is taking over the world! When he/she uses that power to save herself, her friends, or the world… well, I’m all in! I don’t even stop to think twice about it! Of course, not all powers are used for good, but point made.
- The power of love: I am not going to say that love can’t conquer all because love changes people and makes them view life differently. Love is life changing, but is that power of love more believable when it’s a 17 year old girl who turns into a dragon or a seventeen year old girl late for class in high school? Well, I’m intrigued by this girl who turns into a dragon and will be more willing to overlook her age than the girl I envision as myself in a high school setting. The comparison to myself makes me remember all of her life that remains in front of her. I’m a little more skeptical that she may have found the love of her life at 17 than that she turns into a dragon. Weird, right?
- Fight experience: I’m speaking VERY generally, but I believe the percentage of 17 year old’s in the real world who have the fighting skills to overcome terrorists are pretty slim. However, in a fantasy setting where sword skills are learned by the age 10, and of course there are those magic powers they can use (!), I can believe the storytelling for that world. After all, it’s not my own world, it’s make believe.
You get the point. So, here’s the dilemma. How do you write a YA novel, set in the world we are living in, where it’s believable for the main protagonist to have the skills, knowledge and fortitude to save the day, fall in love and otherwise be a hero that is believable?
How do you review that book and not let your own opinions (yes, maybe even disbelief) of that story reflect in your review? Or do you let it affect your review?
I’d like to hear your opinion!
Until next Sunday,
p.s. I am in no way saying that a 17 year old can’t save the world, only that it is more believable in a Fantasy novel. There are amazing young people out there who love this world and will hopefully keep helping save it. This post was a silly way for me to procrastinate writing a review about a teen spy that saved his school. Back to it!