Weird Things About YA Characters

Hey everyone! A few weeks ago, I was hanging out on Twitter, as I often do, and I saw Mia from Pen and Parchment tweet about how unrealistic it is that characters in contemporary books are shown waiting for acceptance/rejection letters to come in the mail, since these days, they’re usually sent through email or something. That got me started thinking about some other odd things book characters do, and this post was born. So thanks to Mia for unintentionally giving me the inspiration for this post.

Now, I know, YA characters do a lot of unrealistic things, or maybe even impossible things—like using magical powers, for example, or traveling through time—but I’m not talking about those obvious things. This post is going to focus on the small things, the things YA characters do/are that you might not think about, which might seem incredibly specific, but are surprisingly widespread.

Now go ahead and let out that breath you didn’t know you were holding, because it’s time to get into the list.


They really like to hang out on roofs/high-up places.

Something I’ve noticed is that YA books like to have scenes set on rooftops—whether it’s the rooftop of the main character’s house or a different one, the scene is there, much more often than you’d think. Sometimes the character’s alone, sometimes they’re not, sometimes they’re trying to be alone but they get interrupted. Sometimes there are even action scenes up there.

Don’t believe me? Here are some examples of books where this sort of thing happens: Grim Lovelies, My Life Next Door, The Heart of Betrayal, the Mistborn trilogy, Legend, I’ll Give You the Sun. And those are just the ones off the top of my head—with genres ranging from fantasy to contemporary to dystopian.

So the question is, why are YA characters so obsessed with high places? Maybe it’s the solitude, maybe the sense of danger, maybe something else. Who knows? I guess we’ll just have to ask them.

They’re only children.

This is a much more common phenomenon in genres like fantasy and sci-fi, but it’s not unheard of in contemporary novels either—characters, and perhaps especially side characters, with no siblings.

Now, for me, this is great. Being an only child myself, the fact that so many YA characters are also sibling-less means that if nothing else, I can usually relate to the character on that front. I can also sort of understand why it’s this way; making every character have a sibling (or two) means more characters, and authors have a limited amount of space. If those extra characters aren’t important to the plot, then they’re just taking up space the author could be using to do things like forward the story or develop the characters who are important.

Still, most people, at least in the United States, have at least one sibling. Most, if not all, of my friends have them, as do my cousins. Only children are in the minority, and yet, the list of only child characters in YA (and literature in general, really) is practically unending. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, I suppose, just odd.

They are all either exceptionally beautiful/handsome, or extremely plain.

(Oh, and they don’t ever have brown eyes.)

This is really more of a “book characters in general” trope than a “YA character” trope, but still.  Where are all the people in between? People who aren’t necessarily beautiful but aren’t unattractive either. I think that category is probably a lot more relatable to most people than either end of the spectrum.

And as for the brown eyes thing… it’s honestly just unrealistic. About 79% of the real world’s population has brown eyes. The fact that so many YA characters don’t is a little ridiculous. And what’s even more ridiculous is how many of them have green eyes, which, by the way, is one of the least common eye colors in the world, with only about 2% of the world’s population having them. (Sorry for getting all science-y there, I just find the discrepancy really interesting.) All I’m asking is that brown eyes get a little more love.

None of them know how to effectively communicate with others.

How many times have you read some version of the line, “I couldn’t tell [insert important person in the character’s life] because they just wouldn’t understand”? Or, perhaps worse, how many times have you been frustrated by a secondary character refusing to tell the main character something that could help them tremendously for no apparent reason? I swear, half of the YA books in the world could be significantly shortened if the characters would only talk to each other.

Granted, it’s a pretty relatable problem. A lot of people have communication issues, but I still feel like in YA, it’s often taken a bit too far.

Their nicknaming ability is superhuman.

I’ve noticed this a lot, especially in first-person narratives. A new character is introduced and, until the protagonist finds out what that person’s actual name is, they give them some weird, occasionally witty or funny, nickname, just off the top of their head. I don’t know about you, but I’m not nearly clever enough to come up with nicknames as fast as a lot of YA characters do. Whenever I meet a new person and I don’t know their name, I usually just remember them by what they look like. Even among friends I’ve known for years, I mostly stick to calling them by the full version of their name, or maybe by a shortened version if I’m feeling a little adventurous. That’s it. Maybe I’m just not creative enough, I don’t know.

Do any of you have this ability to nickname people you meet? Let me know down in the comments.


I think that’s going to be it for this post. Let me know what weird things you’ve noticed that a lot of YA characters have in common. Maybe we can start up a fun discussion!

Thanks for reading, everyone! I’ll see you soon!

-Ariel

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