Lovin' los libros

A book blog dedicated to young adult and new adult novels

Discussion: The effects of being a YA reader and teacher

By 11:44 AM

The effects of being both a YA reader and teacher
 
Hi guys! I've been wanting to do some discussion posts for awhile now, but never seem to really have the time to sit down and do them. Since I'm on currently on Spring Break and I had this post idea come to me, I decided let's do this!
 
Most of you know I'm a teacher. For those of you that don't though, I am a high school Spanish teacher at a really large high school. I mainly teach sophomores and juniors, but I do have some freshmen and seniors sprinkled in. With that being said, I spend more time with teens 15-18 than I do actual adults my own age.
 
 
Every year I learn new slang and new trends, but for the most part- it's the same old, same old. Kids are trying to fit in, find their way, figure out their future. You've got the really good kids who are focused on studying and doing well. You've also got some kids that just don't give a shit about school and just want to go about their daily lives.
 
Being a witness to all of this, I have a really hard time with YA books that aren't realistic. I have read several YA's where I was left shaking my head because there is no way a kid would say the things they did or do the things they did. I do understand that some authors want to maintain a more appropriate, clean novel- but let's be real. Those aren't for me.
 
I love YA authors who aren't afraid to include sex in their books. Because let's face it- KIDS ARE DOING IT. It doesn't have to be graphic, but it doesn't hurt to acknowledge it's happening either. I also appreciate YA authors that aren't afraid to use language in their books. If you guys only knew how many times my kids slipped with shit or fuck....  And that's in class. Out in the halls? Forget it.
 
 
In short, my YA's have to be believable to me. Especially since I work with teens every single day of my life and I know their crazy antics and see all the many different sides of them. I have come to really appreciate authors whose characters are flawed and not perfect. Most high school teens are not these strong, self-assured characters we so often read about. They have their moments of weakness, of insecurity. Even the best kids make mistakes and do things they shouldn't.
 
I have such an appreciation for authors who capture authentic teen voice. Those are the books I prefer to be reading. I can't take books that are prettied up or who use unrealistic dialogue. That is me though. I know if I were a teen reader, I would roll my eyes at that.
 

Rachel Harris, Emery Lord, Katie McGarry, Heather Demetrios, Ann Aguirre, Melissa West, Leigh Ann Kopans, Jennifer L. Armentrout, Paula Stokes, Trish Doller (just to name a few) all do a fabulous job of writing authentic teen voice in my opinion. I have also heard Miranda Kenneally mentioned as well, but haven't personally read any of her books yet.
 
What about you guys? Do you like more authentic YA's that aren't afraid to push the envelope so to speak? Or do you think that YA books should be censored? Let me know what you think!
 
 

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12 comments

  1. I LOVE THIS POST! I agree with everything you said. I don’t work with or am around teens a lot but we all know how we felt and behaved as one. I was insecure and made mistakes. I was nowhere near strong and self-assured. So when a YA book has a flawed character who makes mistakes and isn’t perfect I’m like, “YES!” Flawed characters are the best and seem more real. No one is perfect, so why should characters in books be? I haven’t read some of the authors you mentioned but I love Katie McGarry, Jennifer L. Armentrout, and Miranda Kenneally. You should really read Miranda’s books!

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  2. I agree 100%. I'm no longer a teenager, but I was one for a long time and I'm aware of the things they do/say. It's interesting to me why some authors are so afraid of sex in YA books and language. Even though YA books are aimed at a teenage audience and I can understand parents not wanting their kids to be exposed to stuff like that, but it's still so strange to me. Especially the sex thing. Sex is such a natural part of teenage lives! I think it should be used in YA books to promote safe and healthy sex.
    Great post, Jess!

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  3. What a great post! I don't spend time around teenagers like you do – and I know a lot of things have changed since I was a teen (let's not talk about how long ago that was) – but I respect the authors who aren't afraid to go there. I can't say for sure how realistic it is since I really do distance myself from teens, but if it leaves me rolling my eyes thinking about how it would NEVER have happened that way with me and my friends, I'm pretty sure teens are probably having the same reaction. And I think you totally hit the nail on the head with the sex thing. No, it doesn't need to be graphic, but a good, healthy dialogue about sex helps... even if it's based in a fiction book.

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  4. This is such a great topic. I had not even thought about reading YA from a teacher's perspective. It totally makes sense that you see some many true voices of HS students it would be easier to spot the books that do not captures as well. I do appreciate reading a book where I feel like I can related my HS experience to it or at least see if feasible.

    Ashley @ The Quiet Concert

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  5. I definitely agree with you on loving books that are actually realistic. I hate reading a book and thinking that there is no way that any of it could remotely make sense for a teenager because it's just not how teenagers are. I'm actually a junior in high school so I definitely know what it's like too. Thank you for the post, it was interesting to see what reading YA is like through a teacher's lenses!
    Krystianna @ Downright Dystopian

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  6. Great post Jessica! There are so many YA books I just couldn't enjoy because it didn't feel authentic. I have two teenage sisters and a ton of teenage cousins so I know what feels real and what doesn't. Especially when it comes to language. Teens curse a lot so I would expect to see it in books. Again, awesome post.

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  7. It's really awesome that you teach Spanish!! Hola chica!! Spanish is my first language and I'm a first grade teacher at a bilingual school where I teach English.
    Anyway, I can see why you need authors to capture real teenagers becuase you are with them all day
    Great post
    Ruty @Reading...Dreaming

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  8. Yes, I agree with you 100%! I am not around older kids as much - and I know some things HAVE changed, but there are some things that I really side eye because it's not NOT likely to happen, or something I personally didn't experience. I think this is why I don't like fluffy books too lol

    You should interview some students about it - if you are allowed to do such a thing.

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  9. I agree 100% with you! I know I keep getting surprised about what teens these days get up to, and the only teens I have around are my nephews and only one of them is a teen and not for too long any more since he's about to turn 20!
    Even that way there are so many books that have read as unrealistic for me, so I can understand how even more so they'd be for you! As a teen I always read what I wanted and my parents really didn't restrict what I read... and if I'm not sure if all teens are ready for adult books, I don't think teen need to be protected from reality in YA books, and I feel that most of the time it's parents kidding themselves and thinking that their kids don't know about this or that... the more a kid knows, the more informed they are, the better prepared they'd be to face things and make choices! And books are always a safe place to come into contact with many subjects before encountering them face to face in real life!

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  10. Add Kasie West to that list! Unrelated but I just read The Fill-In Boyfriend... happy sigh :D As a college student, I agree with all of this! There are so many YA books that seem so juvenile... lower YA or whatever. I avoid those when I can. Or get irritated when I read one and there are those annoying elements, like the jargon. Anyway. Well-thought-out and well-said, Jess!

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

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  11. That's a huge reason why I'm totally fine with major character flaws (as long as the character can be likable too). Because I was not perfect in high school. If someone wrote a story from my voice back then they'd probably hate me. lol I like when it is more realistic.

    So I was reading the beginning of this post and was like, oh I didn't know she taught Spanish! It took about 10 seconds for the lightbulb and for me to connect it to your blog name. DOH! hehe

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  12. I've found this to be true too, even with me just being a substitute and only spending a bit of time in schools. I think that's why I hate TFIOS so much - because it's completely unrealistic (and of course I've unfortunately known quite a few teens with cancer). But yes... it's so annoying to find completely unrealistic YA books. That's why I'm going to make sure that when I write my book, it's realistic.

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