The other day, I was browsing my WordPress feed and I happened across this blog post: http://racheliliffe.wordpress.com/2014/02/08/throne-of-glass-hardcore-mary-sue-part-i/. As a writer, bad reviews are something to be avoided at all costs. But as a reader?
I love them. I love reading bad reviews.
Note: “Bad Reviews” does not mean that the review was poorly written. “Bad Reviews” means the reviewer absolutely hated the book and does not even attempt to sugarcoat it.
So, when I stumbled upon this review of Throne of Glass (which I’d never heard of but if this review is any indication, that’s probably a good thing), I read the entire thing and laughed all the way through. Then, I decided to be an ultra-creeper and I read her review of the book on GoodReads. There, I learned that she actively seeks out bad YA books in order to review them. Oh my gosh. She’s a genius.
Reading her review (which was just as humorous thought not quite as long as the blog posts), I got to thinking about bad YA fiction. I’ve read a few such books in my day, the latest of which, I fortunately got for free on Amazon. It looked so good, too! It was about mermaids! But I hated, like absolutely loathed the female protagonist. She was actually the worst.
My initial reaction to bad books has usually been to chuck them across the room and write a scathing review as to why no one should read such garbage and why whomever agreed to publish it should be punched in the face, but then I usually decide that I don’t want to waste any more time or energy on something that I hated so much. That’s what happened when I attempted to read 50 Shades of Grey. I was going to write an analytical essay on what worked and what didn’t, but I only made it to chapter 9 before I actually did toss it across the room. God, those first 9 chapters were awful. I actually hated myself for a while.
Sorry to those of you who enjoyed the book. Feel free to insult a book that I like in the comments section. Harry Potter and The Hunger Games would hurt the most, but I also really love Meg Cabot, Nicholas Sparks, and Shakespeare.
Anyway, after reading these reviews, instead of viewing bad YA romance novels as the enemy, I started thinking, “You know… I bet they are actually really fun to write…”
That expanded to, “So, if I were going to write a bad YA book, what would it need?”
Here’s what I came up with.
1. A Flawed to Perfection Female Protagonist
In my reading experience, it is the female protagonist (at least in the YA romance genre) that makes or breaks a novel. She is the most important character, as the story is more often than not told from her perspective, first or third person. The bad YA female protagonist must be several things in order to make sure the reader just totally and completely hates her guts.
For one thing, she must be beautiful, but in a unique and special snowflake way. More than likely, she herself will not think she is beautiful and spend a greater portion of the narrative complaining about how plain and unattractive she is, despite the fact that every single male character in the series loses his mind lusting after her. She might have a really rare eye or hair color. You know, Bella’s eyes weren’t just brown… they were warm and chocolatey and totally unique brown. Right.
For another thing, she must be intelligent, but incredibly shy and awkward about it, like being smart is something to be ashamed of. Chances are she loves reading boring literature that no one actually enjoys reading. In fact, she might be the only one in her high school/kingdom/coven who enjoys reading at all, because you know, only special female protagonists enjoy a good book. Everyone else in the story is just stupid. She also has incredibly amazing and mind-blowing powers that she probably doesn’t know about until someone points it out to her and tells her just how awesomely special and unique she is. She also probably has a name that no one would ever actually name their kid, like Raelynna or Sapling.
In spite of all of these qualities that anyone else would consider a blessing, our bad YA female protagonist is a whiner and usually totally unappreciative of the people in her life who are not her love interest. She complains about them constantly in her head. Maybe they’re just too mundane or too superficial for her and her deep and angsty profoundness. Whatever the reason, she feels so alone and isolated because no one understands her … expect the hot and broody love interest. Who is really hot.
2. A Hot and Broody Love Interest
Even though this guy is really hot, he is somehow a misfit and doesn’t fit in and he probably spends a lot of time thinking deep thoughts about how much life sucks, even though it probably doesn’t suck at all for him. He’s never known what true happiness is like… until our female protagonist comes along. They might get off to a rocky start and might even spend a few chapters simultaneously hating each other and wondering why they can’t get the other out of their minds and maybe it means something deep like it’s somehow destiny and they’re meant to be together forever.
Both the love interest and the female protagonist probably come with some friends or family members. These side characters are often the only likable characters in the story, but of course, the book can’t be about them, because they’re not dark and broody and come on, people might actually understand them, and who wants to read a book like that?
Physically, this guy is hot. I mean the epitome of male perfection. He has a perfect body, deep, dark and brooding eyes, because you know, he’s deep, dark, and brooding. Those eyes can see straight through to the inner depths of our female protagonist’s special sparkling soul.
3. An Equally Hot Secondary Love Interest Who Just Isn’t as Good as the First
This poor guy. Despite being really hot and totally just head over heals in love with our plain and boring as a stick female protagonist, he’s just not that special connection to her inner being that the love interest is. Yeah, he’s a good guy and he makes her laugh and actually talks to her and cares about her as a person, but come on, who wants that when you can have someone who will sit around and brood with you about how much life sucks for people as unique and special as you? Despite actually being a good guy, the female protagonist will probably spend most of her interactions with this guy thinking about what a great guy he really is, but pitying him because he’s Just Not The One. This, in turn, makes him sounds really pathetic in the narrative and readers start seeing this guy as a wounded creature as opposed to a guy who would probably make a much better boyfriend than the first guy, but whatever. Our female protagonist will probably end up snogging him at one point anyway though, because that wouldn’t be fair to her to have to commit to only one hot guy. She is only human, after all. Well, maybe. If we’re talking fantasy or paranormal, which we more than likely are, she’s probably some super special half-human half-mystical being and the only one in the world as powerful and dangerous and beautiful and what not.
4. A Colorful Cast of Supporting Characters who Actually a Lot More Likable Than the Protagonists
Seriously, these characters are awesome. They have lives, they have hobbies, they have friends, but they’re all so ordinary and mundane and not-angsty, why would anyone want to read about them when they could read about how torn our female protagonist is over which hot guy she loves more? (Hint: It’s the hot, broody guy).
These side characters also happen to think our female protagonist is just the bees knees, like seriously, the coolest person they have ever had the honor and privilege to meet. Except for all the girls who are just totally jealous of her and who are mean to her, but they’re the bad guys, so there.
5. An Antagonist Who Really Isn’t That Big a Deal
Minor things like villains and plots only serve to take away from the true meaning of the book… and that is the most important thing in our female protagonist’s life is deciding which hot love interest she loves more. I mean, yeah, there has to be some sort of bad guy, but of course, he or she is no match for our perfect female protagonist who can use her ancient special snowflake powers to be the one person in the world who actually stands a chance at conquering this deep and oppressing evil which still isn’t quite as important as making out with the hot and broody love interest, but you know, what is?
I think one day, when I have a little bit of spare time, I might try to write a book like this. If I do it right, it will be the worst book ever and it will break the record for one star reviews on GoodReads and Amazon. I think that sounds like a pretty worthy goal, totally deserving of my time and effort.
However, I still prefer nice reviews for Cemetery Tours, but only if you feel they are truly deserved.
Have a great day, all!