I’ve had plans to write this post for a while now but I just haven’t had the time! However, I was recently reading a book which brought this issue to the forefront of my mind and I thought that now would be a good time to address it.
I’ve always assumed that I don’t really enjoy reading books told from a child protagonist’s narrative, however, when I thought about examples of books I could use to highlight this point I found that this is not strictly the case. I have read quite a few books that I have really enjoyed, told from a younger child’s perspective, (Room by Emma Donoghue, Home by Amanda Berriman, The Choke by Sofie Laguna, Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel by Ruth Hogan and The Trouble With Goats And Sheep by Joanna Cannon to name a standout few). So if I have enjoyed books told through the voices of younger children what is my problem???
Teenagers. They are my problem!
Specifically teenage girls.
Or even more specifically female teenage friendship groups.
If I pick a book up and read the blurb only to find a mention of ‘coming of age’ or ’15 year old blah blah blah’ then I am instantly going to put that book right back down! If I’m reading a book which focuses on adult characters BUT they have teenage children then this will also put me off (there have however been a few exceptions to this too, Whistle In The Dark by Emma Healey and How It Was by Janet Ellis and The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss). The difference with these books were that the teen girls were interesting, they were something other than the run of the mill schoolgirls navigating friendships, boys, parental troubles etc.
I think the main issue for me is that I have been an angst ridden teenage girl and to be honest, why would I want to relive those years? For me there is nothing more dull than reading about the cracks in teenage female friendships, the mean girls, the boys they are batting their eyelashes at, the parents they are railing against. Yawn. I have zero interest in reading about any characters difficult pubescent years. Massive eyeroll territory for me.
A few months ago I had to pull out of a blog tour for a book by an author I really enjoy the work of. I had been hotly anticipating their new book and nothing in the blurb mentioned that the three main female protagonists were in fact teenagers, we were just given their names. My heart sank when I realised. I gave the book a good go, I really did! But after 75 or so pages I had to admit defeat and compose an ‘I’m sorry’ email to the publisher. No way could I have done a blog tour for a book I DNF’d as my review policy is not to review books I haven’t finished. Also, I stopped reading the book due to my own reading tastes and not anything to do with the book itself.
I also can’t deal with books about female adult friendship groups who go way back to their teens and have a ‘secret’ between them. No thanks.
More recently I picked up Asking For It by Louise O’Neill. I had had this book on my shelf for a while and had heard some great things. I have read and enjoyed Louise O’Neill’s other novels so I had high hopes. I knew going in that the whole premise was based around teenagers but with the weight of recommendation on me I thought I’d be able to cope………
I unfortunately had to give up and call it a DNF. This book was the epitomy of everything I don’t like about teenage narratives. I felt bad for giving up (only briefly) because so many people had said how great the book was and I knew it tackled a very important subject.
I know now that I can’t really deal with teenage girls.
I really have.
But I guess it’s good to know your own tastes so well. At least now I don’t waste any publishers time requesting books I’m not going to enjoy or be able to review. I’d be interested to know if there is a certain character type or trope that instantly puts you off a book.
Let me know!
See you all soon.
Amanda – Bookish Chat xx
10 thoughts on “Bookish Chat About: Teenage Protagonists”
I completely understand the issues you have here! I avoid the YA genre, and am put off by teen protagonists in most other genres as well. I’m always up for reading about troubled adults, but the younger generation? Nah. Not for me.
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Absolutely Love a troubled adult but teens are a real no-go!
I think for me it’s the plucky middle aged woman trope that annoys me- the whole ‘has she not settled down/had kids’ type of worthiness annoys me. As if they are the only factors by which a woman is considered worthy!
And poorly drawn ethnic characters where the dialogue is matched to how the writer thinks they should speak-I was on a blogtour where a writer had portrayed a person of colour as a forelock tugging, ‘yassir'(no really!!) character for which there is absolutely no excuse.
Oh god yes to these too!
Great blog, reminded me of my daughter who as a teenage girl hated teenage girls, had to move her from an all girls school to a mixed school, she just could t handle the bitchiness. I’m not sure if it’s because she just had 3 older brothers, but she tended to get on better with the boys than the girls. Even now at 27 she hates that group of giggly girls and always has done. I get what you are saying I do tend to try and stay away from the YA books, I have also found that I have to like the characters obviously not all of them, but I have to feel something for them otherwise I am bored. Because a lot of books I have been reviewing are from netgalley, I feel I have to finish them otherwise I can’t give a review and there have been a few that I really did not want to continue reading. Being more selective now in what I request just have to get through the 50 I still have to read although some I am looking forward to, but prefer them in paperback, also looking forward to the many books I have purchased which I haven’t yet had chance to read because I feel guilty picking them up when I have lots on NG due in the next couple of months.
I don’t use Netgalley anymore and I’m really getting good at DNF’ing books that I’m really not enjoying. Life is too short!
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That’s fair enough, I think it’s cool that you now know that this is a thing you don’t like – so you can look specially for books relating on that font to avoid them!
I’m gonna be honest, I quite enjoy thoses. Specially because i’ve been there, and I get to relive what i’ve been through — sometimes quite differently in a way that I couldn’t had lived if it makes any sense? I was not really bullied at my new school, but I was just kind of “reject” where nobody really cared and “oh no not her”; just kind of doing my things while people leave me alone (which, better than being bothered! xd but teenage me couldn’t see that, it is hard without having any friends at school).
I get to relate to a character so closely that it feels so real to me, OR on the other format, get to “live” through reading a popular girl’s story.
I have a similar feeling about books surrounding post-natal depression. I lived through it without really telling anyone and now I’m many years away from that time I love to read books where the characters are suffering or struggling with motherhood.
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While it can be perceived as “wierd” to wanna re-live something like that, being able to relate and feel seen by a book character struggling through something we felt so much is really something amazing; isn’t it?