A trend I’ve noticed lately in YA fiction, especially the paranormal titles aimed at teen girls, is something I call the “ick” factor.
When I’m reading a YA paranormal and all of a sudden I’m knocked out of the story because the situation is so wrong I can’t buy it, or because the characters are acting in ways that make me want to shake them…. usually, that’s because of the “ick” factor.
“Hush, Hush” is a great example of this. Nora, the narrator, intuitively KNOWS that Patch, who she’s been paired with for a school unit on human sexuality is creepy. She asks to change partners, and the teacher not only refuses, he singles them out in class and requires her to tutor her partner. This goes beyond just icky behavior to disturbing. And that doesn’t even touch on the way Nora starts to act when she is around Patch. He acts creepy. He’s a jerk to her. He even tells her he’s a threat to her. Yet she constantly puts herself in danger to be with him. “Hush, Hush” is a bestseller, so lots and lots of girls are reading about Nora and Patch. I’ll also say the cover art is amazing, and screams out “pick me up”! A lot of people obviously have.
But that’s just one outstanding example of the “ick” factor. Sometimes the “ick” factor is almost under the radar. I hate to pick on Jackson Pearce, but the age difference of five years between the romantically involved characters in “Sisters Red” (he’s 21, she’s 16)… well, frankly, most people who see a 21 year old getting involved with a high school aged girl wonder what’s up. I like “Sisters Red”, but the age thing bugs me.
Now, I don’t see this in all YA books. The Generation Dead books by Daniel Waters are great, with strong protagonists and organically flowing plots… I don’t get that icky feeling (even though many of the characters are zombies… THAT’s an accomplishment}. So I know those books, the YA books I can feel good about reading and recommending, are out there. The question is, are they finding their way to those voracious YA-I-loved-Twilight readers? I would hate to think that a lack awesome cover art and marketing are keeping good YA books from getting into the hands of people who would love them, if they only knew.