The YA formula

Young Adult Area

Image by chelmsfordpubliclibrary via Flickr

I’ve been reading a lot of YA-novels lately, and most of them seems to follow the exact same formula. There are little to no variation and by reading the first chapter I can guess the crime and the ending, which is extremely annoying and boring. Right now I’m reading “Low red moon” by Ivy Devlin and I’m pretty sure I already got both the mystery and ending sorted out (and if it is, I figured it out after two chapters).

Over to the formula. The YA formula is very simple: The protagonist/heroine is an awkward girl moving to or already living in a small town/village (preferably with a lot of forest around/near by). A stranger (the hero) lives in/moves to that town/village, He got dark hair and pale skin (but not pale as in pale the authors often point out), he is beautiful often with pointed cheekbones and a feminine look. This guy notices the awkward girl and he is most likely a paranormal being (vampire, werewolf, angel, demon, fallen angel etc.). The heroine and the stranger feels magically drawn together and loves each other at first glance. Then something tries to keep them a part (he wants to eat here, some evil wolves come or a bad guy tries to kill the heroine) and then they live happily ever after.

The main problem with this books is that they use half of the book explaining to the reader that “there is something unnatural about the new sexy guy.” As if the reader is stupid and didn’t understand that during the first four times the protagonist thinks of it. Okay, I know the protagonist need to develop her belief in the paranormal find out what the person is etc. at a believable pace. But do they need to use that much time to get to the freaking point every single time? Especially in books where it’s stated in the back cover, take Twilight” by Stephenie Meyer for example:

About three things I was absolutely positive.

First, Edward was a vampire.

Second, there was a part of him – and I didn’t know how dominant that part might be – that thirsted for my blood

And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.

That back cover gives away the entire story, I have to admit that I felt cheated when I read the book a few years ago. The back cover stole a part of the mystery from me and the first half I was sitting: “OKAY it’s a vampire, move on.”

So the short version of the YA formula must be: “Girl meets paranormal being, love at first glance. Something bad happen but they’re all fine in the end.”

Well, when this is said, I’m very sure I’ll quite reading YA books very soon. There are a couple (read 20-40) YA-novels on my shelf waiting for me tor read them. I guess I’ll read them and then stop reading YA and just read Children’s books and Adult.


3 responses to “The YA formula

  1. Alannah Murphy

    I love how you have been able to sum up this tired “formula” so well. We have Twilight to blame for it as well. Shame my own boy, from my novel, happens to be pale skinned and dark haired, but I cannot help his looks, however, my novel is not YA, plus he is no sparkly moron :-)

    • The formula worked for me about three times or something, but then the pattern was just too clear.
      I also tend to write dark haired and pale skinned protagonists, but it’s because I got a think for Gothic and pale/”dead” style. Dead is the new alive?

      Good thing your boy isn’t a sparkly moron bedroom-stalker. *thumbs up*

  2. Kiwie//Kristine

    I never buy YA books with a supernatural theme because of this.
    It is so annoying guessing the outcome after a few chapters.

    That said I don’t mind formula literature in small doses, but YA fiction is flooded with these things and sifting through it to find the good stuff is not fun.

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