I don’t know if it’s just me, but lately I’ve been feeling like I’ve been reading the same few books only in alternate universes when I’m actually reading different books by different authors. It’s as if authors and perhaps publishers are using a formula to write books because it is known that books that contain the formula become hits. What I mean is that I feel that almost every YA book contains the same certain aspects that make the story seem very familiar.
Nowadays, it feels an overly amount of YA book has…
- A hero/heroine that is thrust into a “life changing” situation
- A love triangle (or at least some sort of romance)
- A “villain” or someone who hinders the protagonist’s journey
- A story that takes place in a different world, usually after some sort of apocalypse
And then with those components the story goes something like this. The main character is introduced living his/her everyday life. Something changes. Either the character comes “of age” (think Initiation in Divergent by Veronica Roth or the acceptance letter to Hogwarts in Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling) or encounters some other sort of situation that changes their everyday life (think being forced to compete in the Hunger Games in the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins). Then the character starts his/her new “adventure”. Along the way, he/she meets a love interest or two. The love interest(s) then help the protagonists on his/her journey. If there are more than one love interest, they usually also fight to win the heart of the protagonists. Then, the protagonist and company are met by a roadblock in a form of either a villain or two or some other obstacle that they must overcome. After the team “solves” the problem, the protagonist and whoever the love interest they choose is get a happily ever after. Or something along those lines.
Seriously, it feels like so many YA books are like that, that it feels like I’m reading the same story over and over again except with different characters, different situations, and different universes and settings by different authors if you squint. That really shouldn’t be that much of a problem. Except that some authors have a hard time making that story their own. Of course there are some authors that manage to set themselves apart, but not all of them do. And I’m left with this boring book because I can already guess most of what happens.
What is interesting is this pattern is somewhat different when it comes to self published and indie books. I have read (and know of) a lot of indie/self published books that stray from the “formula” completely. And a lot those books only became indie/self published after the manuscripts were rejected by publishing companies. So what, you ask? That wouldn’t be that much of a problem only if the those books weren’t that good, but they were (at least I thought so) and sometimes it seemed like they were better than a lot of the books that were published by major publishing companies. One reason why those books were so good was because they are all fresh and more unique – they had the originality that I feel is lacking in a lot of the books that are published by major publishers. I also thought they were pretty well written. Which raises the question, are publishing companies choosing which books to publish on if they contain the “formula of success”? I’m no expert in publishing or anything really close to that (I’m the consumer, not the producer, so I really have no idea how books get published), but it certainly is starting to seem like the answer to that question is yes.
What do you think?
Do you feel that YA books nowadays lack originality and tend to follow a formula?
Or do you disagree?