Thursday, August 16, 2012

What a Cliche; Stereotypes in YA

Don't you hate stereotypes in YA? Especially the characters. How unoriginal can an author be to include such clichés. They're so unbelievable, right?

 Every reader is on the lookout for that perfect book with the perfectly original characters. But at what point do the original characters we seek become stereotypes themselves? So by saying we don't want one type of character because they're overdone, aren't we as readers encouraging authors to write another sort of character that at first is deemed original but a year later is nothing new?

 Why am I asking this question? Well, I was reading a book I really liked. I wrote my review, then went on Goodreads to check out other people's thoughts. Now this is stupid and I'm probably looking for trouble when I do this, but I looked for really negative review to compare that reader's reading experience to mine. I read a few, then settled on a review from a pretty popular reviewer. She had valid points for why she didn't like the book (obviously I disagreed with a few of them but that's a matter of personal taste) and I got to one point. She couldn't believe in the reality of the book because one of the characters was the stereotype of a gay guy.

 Gay teen stereotype: fashion & style obsessed, energetic, positive, dreamy 

Gay boy in the story: fashion and hair skills, loves to cook, energetic, smart, over the top

 Yeah, she's right. He was what we call a stereotype. But that doesn't mean he's unrealistic. (Now, this post isn't just about the 'gay boy' stereotype- insert anyone you like.) It got me thinking, why can't an author write about this type of character? I mean, some guys probably are like this in real life. Many aren't. I think we've established that everyone has their own personality, so what if someone's personality is similar to a stereotype. Are we saying, "No, you can't be gay and like clothes and be really excited about hot guys because that would mean you're a stereotype"?

 Obviously, I have a lot of respect for this reviewer so I know she didn't mean what she wrote so literally. I'm being very nitpicky, but don't you think it's ridiculous that people are looking for completely original characters when even people in real life don't always seem to be completely original, especially when you don't know them that well? I have met people who seem stereotypical, especially at first glance: the super smart Asian chick; the hotshot athlete that gets along with all the girls; the popular idiot. Undoubtedly there's more to these people than I know and that's why they aren't stereotypes. Because they walk and talk and live. So if these people exist in real life, why can't they exist in books without readers feeling like the characters aren't original?

 I think it's the author's job to add depth to all their characters but they shouldn't refrain from including the right character in the right scene, even if said character seems to be a stereotype at first impression. And as readers, we can't expect every character to be unexpected. That's crazy. We should allow authors to show us the unique personalities of their characters instead of comparing them to other characters we've read of before. Basically, be more open to the differences and focus less on the similarities. This is especially important when it comes to reviewers because we're so analytical when we read and we constantly compare books. I understand it's much easier said than done and I'm not even sure if I'm doing this right or not.

So what do you think? Agree, disagree, think I'm a total lunatic? Leave a comment and let me know!


  1. "even people in real life don't always seem to be completely original"

    "as readers, we can't expect every character to be unexpected"

    Those are two fair and intelligent observations. Stereotypes are definitely a problem -- and a sign of lazy writing -- but as you said, sometimes they exist for a reason. Sometimes people in real life really are like that.

    Honestly, it's probably always going to come down to a matter of opinion whether a reader thinks the author is being lazy or realistic. Probably there will be clues, like if A LOT of the characters are stereotypes, or (on the flip side) if the allegedly stereotypical character is being treated with respect. Personally we like to give writers the benefit of the doubt whenever we can.

    1. Yeah, it's very subjective. Just like reading in general. Someone will consider something overly stereotypical, while another person will think there's nothing wrong with it. I think it's very rare when it comes to opinions that people will agree on one idea.

      Benefit of the doubt seems like a good policy.

      Thanks for visiting!


Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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