**my goon jacob and i spend afternoons going to barnes and nobles where we peruse the YA novel section until we find the one that looks the most, well, BAD. just pure, utterly terrible, mind-blowingly bad novels. generally we take about 16 minutes to find the book of the day and a few hours reading this book while cringing- both from the novel’s ridiculousness as well as from the imagery of large, ugly girls straddling the gorgeous male character. we call ourselves the barnes and nobles book club and have read 4 novels so far (Crossing Lines by Paul Volponi, The DUFF by Kody Keplinger, Babe in Boyland by Jody Gehrman, and Chasing Jordan by Miranda Kenneally). while i’m sure jacob and i could give you excellent reviews of these books and the lessons we’ve learned reading them, the more important concept we have learned is about the genre as a whole. i have a really boring class on the subject of the 20th cent. british and irish poetry, so i spent class listing the GUIDELINES FOR WRITING A YA NOVEL.
1. main characters must have slightly unusual names. (along the lines of very modern, upper middle class, private school attending OR unfortunately archaic). e.g Macy, Regan, Wesley, Spencer (for a girl). you get the point.
2. apparently YAs want to turn gender roles on their head- girls can do ANYTHING and guys can decorate cupcakes. sure, the cheerleaders and jocks will do a bit of bullying and teasing but in the end the girl who is all star in rugby is actually a beautiful blonde and everyone falls in love. and when “love” gets involved the gender norms go right back to the stereotypes.
3. all novels have a DUFF. she is either horribly bullied OR bffs (“omg, you look sooo cute, you’re soo not a DUFF” «false) with the popular girls. whether or not this is actually a guideline, DUFFs are too great to leave out. (the DUFF is our inspiration).
4. everyone has a secret redeemable quality or excuse. the dumb jock actually loves shakespeare…he just didn’t want to get made fun of. the bitch was picked on in 6th grade for being awkward but then she hit puberty and transferred schools where she is now the ultimate be-otch…and of course puts out because she’s still insecure. the asshole dude had a best friend at summer camp who was black and from the inner city (this is totally unusual because all YA novels take place in wealthy, white suburbia). sadly, in 9th grade De’Andre got hit by crossfire in a drive by shooting and now the asshole is well…an asshole because he’s emotionally scarred and broken.
5. any shitty YA author LOVED english class. their 11th grade english teacher was their hero. they’ve read all of Jane Austen’s novels and live for jane eyre. this fact will become blatantly obviously when reading the YA novel. characters will have some of these traits, some of the names will derive from the author’s favourite shakespeare play, and about 43% of plots will be based off the plot of a book published before 1927. (never lose sight of the truth—LIVE LIKE HEMINGWAY AND STAY DRUNK).
6. the best friend trio is pretty vital. remember the disney channel law: three best friends, two of the group are of one gender, one is the opposite sex. one of the best friends is a minority of some variety. think about it.
7. the plot, 87% of the characters, and the general lifestyles portrayed in the novel will be completely unrealstic. srsly. if any event could maybe happen, EXAGGERATE IT MORE!!!! and throw in a drunk girl passing out in class…oh wait, that happened. therefore, also included the pregnant girl having a baby in 8th period chem or someone having a guy serenade her with dozens of roses and 44 balloons during lunch. then have the dream boy fall in love with the boring, whiny, stupid DUFF (even though she has neither a redeemable appearance nor personality).
8. high school will not be what high school was like. it will be…just no. stereotypes are VERY important so use them as much as possible. everything will be ridiculous. do not worry if the entire novel seems completely unbelievable and just, well, plain absurd; that is the goal.
9. use a long, pretentious, and annoying vocab. you might be a lousy writer, but hey, you know what erudite means.
Guys, this is my friend Katie. We go to bookstores and read the terrible novels people write for teenagers. It’s our guilty pleasure, second only to pandas. This is a perfect guide how to write one of these terrible, terrible, stories and still get published.