Sunday, August 3, 2014

Teenagers Aren't Stupid

***If you're here for the 1st chapter critique, please read through the blog post first to understand why I'm doing this. Thanks!***

Teenagers aren't stupid.

Yes, I know this seems like a very basic and apparent statement, but it's not. I've gone through a lot of chapter swaps with other writers where multiple people read my first chapter and say, "I really like your premise and writing, but the main character isn't believable. Teens don't think in such a mature way."

Hold up. Let's take a look at that statement for a second. If you haven't figured this out yet or found your way to my bio, I'm an 18 year old girl. I write young adult fiction. My character's speak and act in ways that I would. My characters think and act in ways that my teenage friends and acquaintances would. So, to put it simply, these writers are telling me that, actually, I'm not a believable person because I speak the way my character's speak, and teens don't speak like that.

Oh, please.

This misconception about teenagers is a major pitfall I see in a lot of YA novels, published or unpublished. These writers will dumb down their characters. They will have them miss extremely obvious things. They'll have them make mistakes that teens stopped making back when they were two years old. They've decided that a teen's lack of worldly experience makes them stupid. This conclusion is demeaning and hurtful. Teenagers are people. They are intricate, complex beings that can think for themselves. When you take these characteristics away from them, you create characters that fall flat on the page.

And us teenagers are not stupid. When we read books, we can tell right away if the author gets teens or not. And I promise there are some that do! (Meg Cabot, Francine Pascal, Sarah Dessen, etc.) But most don't. 

This brings me to my concluding point: Teenagers are different than adults, but that does not make them lesser beings. This is a simple truth that YA writers need to understand if they want to create realistic characters that are involved in true-to-life situations.

So, in light of this and in honor of #pitchwars coming up, I'm offering 1st chapter critiques to any YA writer (I'm open to critiquing non-YA fiction, but the reason I'm critiquing YA is because I'm editing for voice.) who contacts me at melissaalbert95 (at) gmail (dot) com. I would like to openly state that I don't have credentials for editing other than that I understand the English language and that I am a writer. However, I do understand teens and the teenage voice. I understand how we think, act, and speak.

If this sounds like an interesting opportunity, shoot me an email. (All edits are confidential and will never be posted anywhere.) Please paste your query letter in the body of the email (just so I have a sense of what your story is about) and attach your first chapter as a word document. Also, I would suggest following me on Twitter (@MelissaAlbert27) because I'll be posting updates on where I am with critiques as well as when I've made a new blog post. In case it wasn't clear, I'll be using this blog to either dispel or confirm common thoughts about teens and what they say, do, and think. I'm not trying to toot my own horn, put myself on a pedestal, etc., but I really (hopefully) believe that this could be a valuable resource for YA writers.

Stay tuned for my next post: The Myths of Teenage Texting.

Woohoo, I've finished my first blog post! *wipes sweat from brow* Comments are always welcome! I hope to get a lot of emails for 1st chapter critiques!


P.S. Here's my bio if you want to verify that I'm a human being:

Melissa Albert is a young adult writer who is repped by Uwe Stender of TriadaUS. She majors in Industrial and Organizational Psychology at The College of New Jersey where she is going into her sophomore year. Her wonderful friends and family lovingly put up with her constantly zoning out as she tries to mentally fix plot holes in her stories. Lover of all YA fiction, she has three completed manuscripts, one of which is currently in rewrites. You can bribe her with anything chocolate or cat related. Feel free to contact her by email at melissaalbert95 (at) gmail (dot) com or on Twitter at MelissaAlbert27. She loves to talk all things writing, gymnastics, soccer, singing, acting, dancing...the list goes on and on!


  1. Great post. I've read YA books with the teens-are-impulsive-morons feel to them and they always tick me off. This is a topic that definitely needs more attention brought to it.

    1. Thanks Kimberly! Oh boy, have I read a ton of those books as well.

  2. This is my 17-year-old daughter's biggest complaint. So many high schools in books seem to be populated with middle-schoolers.

    1. Thank you! I'm happy to hear (but not completely happy to hear because this means YA books need some serious changes) that this sentiment isn't just shared by my friends and myself. I agree wholeheartedly with your daughter on it seeming like the characters should still be in middle school.