Why Older People Will Save the World (& Teenagers Won't)


From where I'm sitting, movies & books are chockablock with KIDS.  I got stuck under a salon dryer in front of a TV playing "If I Stay," & basically the entire time I was half-angry that the girl COULD NOT SEE that the boy was no good, & half in awe that people could get away with making an ostensibly engaging film (??) composed largely of just two teenagers making out & fighting & making out.  This is what kids watch?  This is what kids read?  A bunch of OTHER (thinly fictional) kids blundering around like everything is normal + okay when everything is so obviously NOT normal + okay, without a sensible individual in sight.

I just finished "Sense & Sensibility," & yes I loved it!  I am yours truly too much like Marianne but the fact is I appreciate Elinor & strive to be more like her:

not cast about by every wind + wave of emotion
capable of swallowing my pride for the sake of reason
attentive to the distresses of others despite what i may be suffering myself

In short, MATURE.  And guess what?  Elinor was only, like, nineteen or twenty years old.  Oh em gee, she's just a kid, she's just discovering herself, she's - I can't keep this up.  No, Elinor Dashwood, although a fictional character, was written by a young woman basically the same age, & provides proof that YOUNG PEOPLE CAN BE MATURE.  The problem is, all of the role models I see snogging around are basically worthless.

It's just that, for some of us, it comes faster...or slower...depending on how much you push yourself.  You don't have to turn thirty & then suddenly get your act together because now you're an "adult."  Nope, you can start much earlier, & it makes an otherwise confusing process just a little less excruciating.*

IF your main character is in that most trying age of being a "young adult" // teenager, why not, for the sake of healthy novelty, SKIP the highschool drama & the boyfriends & the Pinterest & the "adventure is out there" tropes.  Instead, you could actually have a sensible, well-balanced, SANE character who is trying to navigate your plot + life & trying not to make too much drama for himself in the process.  If your character needs a mental leg up, there's always Mr. Miyagi as a role model additional character.  People with sense get better with age, so don't discount the importance of older people helping your stupid clueless teenagers.  Because TEENAGERS ARE STUPID.** 

(* i look back on my teenage self & think, "...you were an IDIOT.")

(** this is an offensive, broad-brush statement & i hold to it so you can try to avoid being stupid if you are in fact a teenager.  forewarned is forearmed.)

Did nobody think this through?  Out of everybody - everybody in the world - the fate of our country / continent / world / universe rests on the shoulders of someone who isn't even old enough to legally drink??  There has been some SERIOUS mismanagement here.  Oh, we ALL gonna die.  This kid doesn't know how to file tax forms, & he's going to save us from certain destruction?  We //ALL// gonna die. 

You think maturity is musty & dull?  You think "settling down" is the worst thing to ever happen to you?  Then you have been delicately sheltered from one of life's greatest truths: BEING MATURE IS AWESOME.

not wrecking your body with drugs + alcohol?
not dealing with hormonal school drama?
owning a house?
having a comfy bed with an actual, dependable bedtime routine?
eating healthy, home-cooked meals that your body will rejoice to eat?

How is this NOT awesome?  People who say being wild + crazy is better are either lying or they don't know better.  I'M HERE TO TELL YOU BETTER.  Sensible, mature people take care of things (laundry, bills, the mysterious prophecy which dooms you to save the world).  They know how to handle responsibilities (shopping for groceries, mopping the floors, making sure you don't get stabbed by shadowy brutal enemies while you try to save the world).  They have lots of wisdom to impart which you would probably die before attaining on your own (change the air filters in your house, don't turn on your car in the garage without opening the garage door first, never split up or go out at night when something is trying to kill you).

Little young adult characters, don't lose your dreams + ambitions.  They give you motivation & help make the world a better place (assuming your dreams don't include becoming a terrorist).  But let's face it, you don't even know.  At the same time you're dealing with hormonal trauma & you think your life is awful, you also think life is magically hunky-dory & everything will pan out.  Well, NO, not if you don't man up & take care of things.

Maturity + responsibility make people STABLE.  Your same-age friend is going to freak out & stress along with you (not helpful) whereas a mature adult will give you straight-up common sense advice (very helpful).  

The teenage years, my little young adult characters, are NOT your golden days.  Nope, they're basically a blundering mess & I'm only 26 but I am appalled to see highschool students allowed to drive massive constructions of metal at insane speeds down public roadways.  Guess what!  If you have any sense of self-betterment, you will seek out maturity, save the world, & have minimal love-triangle drama scars to show for it (they are not a badge of honour, they are just proof of your stupid).  Not sure how to be mature?  Find someone who is!  Trust me, you & your novel will be glad.

"But young adult novels with teenagers are so RELATEABLE."

get out.

We have friends.  We have the internet.  We have people who relate to us by the BUCKETload.  But if you actually want to improve, you need role models who are BETTER THAN YOU (see, Elinor Dashwood).  Drama, heartache, struggles, obstacles to overcome - they happen to mature people too, you know, & mature people JUST GET BETTER.  Wouldn't that be a worthwhile type of character to present to the reading populace?

yours truly, 100% tired of seeing reviews exclaiming that the mc was just so dumb

14 ripostes:

  1. Preach it! Many mainstream YA books feature incredibly immature characters. I can tolerate some stupid mistakes, but if they don't learn from it and just keep being idiotic, then NO THANK YOU.

    I enjoyed books like the Dragons in Our Midst series by Bryan Davis far more as a teen. The adolescents actually learned and grew and cared more about staying alive and saving the people they loved than about high school drama!

    Anyway, rabbit trail aside, I appreciated this post, and point #3 had me snickering. (That last bit about parallel parking is so true, it's not even funny. XD)

    1. I think YA fiction being a vehicle for teenagers to see their own struggles mirrored, but with NO resolution, is a huge no-no. And anyway, with so much at stake, you would think people it would be profitable to show people banding together for the good of all rather than falling apart in petty squabbles and love-triangles.

      Or you could contrast those two and make an entirely new novel. Huh.

    2. Now there's an intriguing idea! Hmm...

  2. Can I just say a huge resounding "YES" to this post please? Oh my goodness, I have just been ranting about this for ages, and few understood what I was saying and this is just the best and oh my word... I can go on, but you just said everything I wanted to say, so THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Just a little breath of fresh-air, I love the way "young characters" were handled in the BBC show Merlin, with the strong inclusion of parental, more mature older figures to give advice and words of wisdom and help guide the young people. . . also the young people, with all their youthful moments of weakness and stupidity, were trying to grow and learn and be braver, wise and more loyal and sacrificial. Basically, I'm quite in love with what those writers did with the show's characters. . .

    On the other hand, the Hunger Games. . . okay, I'll just shut up now :P :D.
    Thanks, anyway, Jenny!

    1. Children have this innate feel for common sense that makes THEM saving the world seem plausible, but once they hit puberty - BAM - nothing in their brains is focused anymore and basically the world is doomed if we have to rely just on THEM to save us. XD Having parental or older mentor figures in the story can save us from breaking the thread of tenderly suspended disbelief. XD

  3. I was grinning the whole way through! Old souls are the best. There's nothing I can stand less than flippant teenage melodrama.
    (By the way, I *am* Elinor Dashwood; she resonated with me as soon as I watched S&S for the first time. She's me to a T.)

    I enjoy writing mature characters. Even if they are 13, like in my current book; hey, thirteen year olds can be mature! Which doesn't mean perfect and wise, obviously. But they don't need an adult to supervise them using the safety scissors.

    1. We've been discounting how capable children are of becoming mature - I think it must be a chronic oversight in society. No, we don't want to take away the cradle of childhood, but we shouldn't //extend// it past its time, and the process from child to adult shouldn't be as sudden as shoving a bird out of a nest. Believe me, it is excruciating to be in that in-between age, not knowing how to be an adult and yet expected to be one. I believe children ARE capable, but they need guidance!

  4. Yes! This is the one of the reasons that I'm not into most of modern day TV and books. I can't stand the idiots.
    I'm glad you enjoyed Sense and Sensibility, by the way. I'm somewhat of an ungodly mix of Elinor and Marianne myself.

  5. Oh bless you! THIS is the best article I have read this year, I think! Standing ovation!

    1. Gah, thank you! You are too sweet I need to go hide now. X'D

  6. Yes! I think we teenagers need to show more respect and appreciation for those older than us. And, it gets old reading about 'relateable' characters all the time, to be honest.. Thanks for sharing!