Sunday, July 6, 2014

ReaLITy Check: Growing Up

Books are our friends, right? WRONG. Friends don't lie, at least they shouldn't lie. Therefore, books cannot be our friends. Rewind to the beginning of my senior year, or even before that, and you'll see what I'm talking about. Fiction is fiction for a reason and I know that authors try to stick to realism, but need to spice things up. It's especially hard in contemporary because it's our world. Well, in late high school, I realized that everything I thought I knew about graduation was false, thanks to YA contemporary.

Do you know how many YA contemporary books are set in public high school? A lot. Do you know how many of those are set in senior year, usually the spring before they graduate? A lot more. Do you know how many of those realistically portrayed what senior year is supposed to be like? A whole lot less. Real life is no fun and usually boring so I get wanting to spice things up, but is it really necessary to traumatically disappoint me? 

I took the ACTs earlier than most, but still continued to take it throughout my senior year to boost my  score (I did well the earlier times, but a certain scholarship I needed required a high score that I kept missing by a point or less). There've been books that have talked about the SATs and others that have talked about scholarships. A lot of times, there has been mention of stress about picking a college and deciding what to do or how to get there or coping with growing up. But I NEVER read a book that accurately described the stress and the confusing, mundane tasks to actually reach college. 

The super long list I was never informed I had to do to reach college includes...
  • Paying to just apply for college 
  • Writing AT LEAST a 500 word essay (one I looked at had TWO!) along with other repetitive questions
  • Actually deciding on which college, which requires lots of research and worrying
  • Making sure the college you want knows you're accepting
  • Signing up for housing (required, along with a meal plan for my college)
  • Worrying about your roommate
  • Waiting forever to hear about your room assignment
  • Signing up for orientation
  • Completing FAFSA
  • Sending in your immunization forms...several times
  • Repeatedly sending in your transcripts
  • Applying for lots of scholarships
  • Waiting to see if you're accepted for those scholarships, and having panic attacks when you're not and having dance parties when you are 
  • Worry more about money, repeat this 10x
  • Go to orientation and be severely bored
  • Sign up for classes
  • Wait

These are just the ones I remember off the top of my head and they don't even include junior year. Or deciding on which major you want. The problem with YA contemporary fiction is that it's way more fun than real life. I'm not saying that I don't want that, but it's cruel to realize you don't live in the same world. I constantly read about these people "worrying" (yeah, sure, whatever. Your stress is MINUSCULE compared to mine) about colleges, but they end up going to an out of state university. Those bad boys are about $20,000 more expensive! If you're a normal kid, where are you getting all this money from? What about the transportation home? What about your ACT/SAT scores? I've read a story where the girl was obsessed with memorizing vocabulary, but what about the other aspects? What about all the mundane details? Aren't you going to at least mention them? 

The growing up process is extremely different in fiction than it is in reality, as should be expected. But being a book lover makes it complicated. You want to connect with the character and have her feel the same way as you, but it's hard when your stress level is sky high and hers barely reaches the fence level. 

So fiction has given me another unrealistic expectation to grumble about because life is way harder than the (contemporary) main characters' growing up problems. Unless you live in Panem, I don't believe your complaints. Too bad you have [this problem] to deal with, but yay for you, you magically get accepted into the school of your choice far away even though you never studied. 

What's your complaint with YA contemporary, especially with school settings? Did you find your expectations for growing up completely delusional? 


  1. Ooh, good luck with your college stress! I hope you choose the right college AND the right major.
    I definitely agree with you when you say that YA Contemporary is delusional. The "cliques" at school, how some people do all these fun things after school and still do well (uh, homework much?), the ROMANCE...
    It's hard to create a world that's accurate and STILL interesting to read, though.
    Well, good luck with your senior year stress!

    1. I least I think I did, so thank you! It is a frustrating balance. On the one hand, you hate how it's unrealistic. But on the other, I think it might be too boring to read if it was like real life.

  2. I don't read a ton of YA Contemporary, partly because the characters have these "huge" school problems that often have me raising an eyebrow, thinking, really? Yeah, fiction can be a wonderful escape, sweet nostalgia, or sugar sweet daydreams that need to be crushed into dust. :)

  3. I'm definitely aging myself here, but when I read books about high school (which is A LOT of books) I find myself so frustrating that my teenage years were never like that. I just assumed it's because I'm in my 30's and high school was sooooo long ago. But maybe it's just that it's not realistic. I never really though of it that way before. Great thoughts, Summer! You've definitely got me thinking... :)

    1. Haha! No, no, it still isn't like that ;)

  4. Ha ha, I don't read many contemporary largely because the "problems" are laughable, and I think you're on point about this! Real life is way more stressful!

  5. I didn't read contemporary books too much while in high school, but looking back, I can definitely say that my own high school experience was nothing like what is portrayed in YA contemporary novels these days. It sometimes makes me wonder if maybe these authors did have that type of awesome experience, though, and that's what makes them better writers: because they had awesome things to write about from that time in their life. Or, it could be that we all suffered the same in high school, but they've blocked it out and are making it up as they go, lol. Rest assured, you're not alone in your misery. School was hard, physically and emotionally, but it prepares you for the reality of the real world to some extent. Hope things get a bit less stressful for you soon, Summer!

  6. Ugh. Ugh ugh ughhhhhhhh. Just reading your list of stresses makes me dread junior year 100x more. I found myself nodding along as I read your post, because it is SO TRUE. I recently read this book where this girl who doesn't even stress about school and goes to parties and has a social life and somehow got accepted into Harvard even though according to her she's "not that smart." WTF? Do authors realize how hard it is to get into a school like that, where your GPA has to be super high and you have to take a certain number of AP/honors classes? It seriously annoys me and come to think of it, it's one of the reasons why I try to stay away from YA contemporary. Really awesometastic post!

    P.S. *waves* HELLOO NAME TWIN! :D :D :D

  7. I actually had been thinking about writing a discussion post on this same topic because it bothers me too! I've only completed two years of high school, so I can't speak with he authority that you do, but I noticed long ago that YA characters rarely do homework, study, take standardized tests, etc. I like fiction because it is more entertaining than the average teenager's real life, so I understand a bit of truth-stretching, but characters' relationships with school have gotten a bit ridiculous. As a side note, can we also talk about how unrealistic most YA romances are? That annoys me as well.