Young Adult novels go through a standard checklist of events/characteristics/settings almost like deviating from that checklist will cause the book to fail when on the contrary books who deviate from the norm attract more readers. It’s okay if you want your novel to be on the safe side of YA but its super easy to turn cliché points of a novel into refreshing modern takes of Young Adult. Having read countless YA novels as a reader I think there are certain points that are long due for an update – times change and so should fictional characters, so here are some dos and don’ts


•DO•

☑ Include social media in your novel, like:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Tumblr
  • Instagram
  • Spotify
  • YouTube(ers)
  • Snapchat – filters everywhere!

DON’T•

❌ Do. Not. Use. Text. Speech. No one does that anymore, also be careful of the slang you use.  You do know teens are glued to their phones, so why is yours so anti-phone? WHY?

DO•

✅ It’s perfectly okay for your character to:

  • put on make-up
  • do her own hair
  • own a pair of heels
  • be able to walk in them

DON’T•

✖ Immediately excluding those and judging other female characters who wear make-up? Yeah, that’s called slut-shaming. Please stop this unrealistic I don’t know how to use make-up so I have my friend do my make up and hair, I mean, HELLO this is the generation of teenage make-up artists…

DO•

✔ Love triangles? I get it, it’s your ticket to trilogies and suspense, who’s he/she going to pick, but at least give your character individual healthy relationships, if your heroine has multiple guys hitting on her, she should at least explore her options and date at least 1-2 people other than the hero and don’t make her previous boyfriend(s) an asshole(s). Why? ⤵

DON’T•

❎ Love triangles in real life actually suck. Big time. Confusion and heartbreak and general awfulness are not romantic, at all. Plus, if you go down the triangle road eventually it will lead to the inevitable happy every after and maybe a chapter – years later – married and all. Essentially, your character has only dated one person, possible two (2/3 times it’s the brother, #AwkwardXmasDinner), and that’s it. That’s all her (you know it’s a her, the dude is always such a womanizer *pukes*) experience – married the dude she fell in love with in school or college. *headdesk* THAT. IS. UNREALISTIC.

DO•

Include diversity. And not as a plot device, or a oh that’s my gay friend you don’t have to worry about him. But actual gay characters with depth or an interracial relationship, there’s so much more than the white-hot guy falling for the white hot-but-she-doesn’t-know-it female. GO DEEP AND EXPLORE. (Did that sound dirty? 😇)

DON’T•

➖ DON’T include cliché gay tropes. Not all gay guys are into fashion, your heroine is anti-fashion but her gay best friend is not?

DO•

☑ You know there’s a thing called Netflix? Teens actually binge the fuck out of TV shows. It’s okay to mention that once in a while if you want to show your character’s interests.

✅ Your heroine reading books is not a big deal, look at your sales, there’s a lot of teenagers out there who are into books and it’s amazing. Include more bookworm characters, *whispers* it’s okay!

➕ They blog, and they go to conventions and they write fanfiction, make fan videos, teenagers are creative and they deserve the credit.

Serena van der Woodsen did it!

•DON’T•

❎ Mention old music and books. No, teenagers don’t own an old copy of Pride and Prejudice, DO YOU? And they don’t reminisce old music. That doesn’t make them unique, sure they can have a few old songs come up on their playlist or drop a reference but that’s as far as it goes. They make youtubers popular and they like NEW MUSIC. Google it.

DO•

✅ Your hero can be kind and polite and understanding, don’t make your heroine “tame” the “bad” boy.

•DON’T•

✖ Your heroine is not the opposite of your hero. Having a broody hero, jealous, possessive, womanizer that has to settle down, yeah, that’s not normal. Please set a balance, Young Adult books have a huge platform, it’s not the girl’s job to tame anyone and it’s not okay for any guy to be an asshole to her or other girls before her. Respect your heroine and all female characters!

DO•

➕ *whispers* Teenagers have parents! I know, it’s shocking, but they do. They can be supportive and loving, and kind and teens can still be little shits, that’s kind of the hormones and all.

DON’T•

❌ Blame the parents for shitty kids. Enough with the problematic/dead parents.

DO•

Saved the most important for last:

✅☑✔➕ Include disabilities and illness.

DON’T•

❎✖❌➖ Don’t romanticize them and don’t cure them magically.


So there you have it. There are so many things to add to this list and feel free to add yours as well!

6 thoughts on “YA NOVELS | DOs & DON’Ts”

  1. It’s soooo much more realistic when characters use technology. Even adults. It’s so aggravating to me when a plot hinges on characters never being able to use their phone to even text or call someone for help or a ride or to check on them or something.

    But I have to say, it’s ok for a character to wear makeup, be great at doing hair, etc., but I think it’s also ok for a character to not know how to do those things. I mean, *I* don’t know how to do those things, so it is realistic that some characters would be like that. I don’t have anything against people who are into beauty stuff, but I always needed people to do my hair and makeup for me whenever I needed to wear it, like for performances. So it’s just that yeah, authors shouldn’t *shame* people who do like those things or imply that their character is special just because they don’t wear makeup or whatever. It should just be another part of them, not a “not like other girls” thing.

    Seriously, the old music thing is so overdone!

    Yay! I’m so glad you included disabilities as your most important point and mentioned not to romanticize or cure them <3
    Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight recently posted…Book Review: Broken Mirror (Resonant Earth Book 1) by Cody SiscoMy Profile

    1. I totally agree, I was one of those girls who couldn’t do my own make up until later but this is a trope that’s in every book, that’s just unrealistic and it doesn’t reflect teens now at least not the majority so it needs to stop especially if its that one thing that makes the heroine special.

      I can’t believe we even have to mention that books need disabilities represented and that its become a thing to make them disappear, insane!
      Kei @ The Lovely Pages Reviews recently posted…YA NOVELS | DOs & DON’TsMy Profile

  2. Haha I loved this. Most of it I agree with! I think I only disagree with 2 because of personal experience. I married my high school sweetheart >..< I always have because I grew up with a mom who LOVED listening to music 24/7. And I own a lot of old books (again because my mom collected them then gave them to me). But I can see why it would be a bit cliche.

    But the rest, TOTALLY AGREE. The text speech thing is so annoying?! WHY. Most people just type out the entire word now? And I don't think I ever said "LOL" or "BRB" in person? I don't know where they get that haha
    Molly @ Molly’s Book Nook recently posted…The King Slayer by Virginia Boecker // I Have Mixed FeelingsMy Profile

  3. Social media is a big one. I agree. And so true about love triangles in RL, they can be MESSY and not cool at all. YA seems to simplify them so much it’s unrealistic. I mean someone and maybe several someones are probably getting hurt if that’s going on.

    Parents too. And I’d like to see more attention paid to like homework and performance pressure (not THAT kind lol) but you know, seriously, teens are under so much pressure w/ grades, extra curriculars, college, and I feel like even though that stuff is mentioned it’s not always explored in- depth. And it’s HUGE in their lives. And yes can we get over the broody bad boy who’s not really bad even though he treats her like shit? Um, sorry, but if he treats her like shit for ANY reason maybe he’s just an asshole??? I wonder that a lot with YA. 🙂

    Anyway great list. Totally agreeing.
    Greg recently posted…Cover Characteristics GrassMy Profile

    1. Oh wow, it’s been such an non-issue that I didn’t even think about homework! I was talking about it in another discussion post about teens in YA who have a full time job and how I couldn’t even socialize with the amount of homework let alone work. I guess when you have to save the world, school isn’t as important LOL!

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