OK, so this is basically a discussion post, but it’s more specific: these posts will focus on various archetypes in YA books.
What is an archetype, you ask? Well, if you don’t ask, skip this definition from Dictionary.com:
the original pattern or model from which all things of the same kind are copied or on which they are based; a model or first form; prototype.
This definition doesn’t necessarily cover what I plan on talking about in these posts, but I liked the title, so archetypes it is. I’m basically focusing on the “model” part of the definition, in that I going to look at various models or types of characters in YA.
Characters need foils – if the phrase “opposites attract” is truly to be believed, then most relationships seem to be made up of some kind of conflicting personalities. Sure, the phrase is talking more about romantic relationships, but I think the same can hold true for sibling relationships as well. Since so many protagonists seem to be quiet, introverted, and shy (at least, according to most writing, not necessarily the actions of the characters), then their siblings are often loud and danger-seeking – no more so than wild child older sisters.
So many books aren’t just content to keep these wild characters the way they are and show that it’s okay to be interested in sex and not always following the rules – instead, they become semi-reformed characters. Since they were difficult children, their parents are harder on the protagonist as a result, and that’s a reason for them to gripe about it. I’m just getting tired of it, because they seem like stock characters that are simply there to show the protagonist who not to become.
I’m just tired of it all already.
We hear about their wild pasts, but in the current story, they are often quite bland. They aren’t really in their little sister or brother’s life, which means they seem even less fleshed out than they already are, really sealing their fate as stock characters.
All kinds of books make this mistake, from bad ones to ones I otherwise love, like Sarah Dessen’s The Truth About Forever. It’s one of my favorite books from her, but I never really connected with the protagonist’s older sister because she seemed like this stock character. There wasn’t much to her, and it seemed like we were meant to dismiss her for the most part. I need to reread this book, but from what I remember of it, she seemed like an unimportant bit character who was rarely in the protagonist’s life. Maybe it’s because I’m an older sister myself, but I hate seeing sisters who don’t seem to care about their own sisters at all.
This is what I want from sisters.
Wild child sisters can be great characters, just like any other characters – you just need to dig into their psyche more. As is the case with all of these posts for this feature, I just want characters whose personality is dug into more. I want to know why the sisters like to party – are they extroverted and feel a great rush from being around other people? Do they want to have fun and inspire other people to have fun as well? Is partying a way to forget about something bad that happened to them in the past? Why are they the way they are – that’s all I want to know! How does their partying affect their other relationships, like with their family? Are they too reckless and need help, or are they simply making the most of their life? There are so many ways to delve into this type of character, and we’re just missing out on it most of the time.
I know, it’s a travesty.
I’m not saying that everyone will have a great reason behind partying, but most of them should – or they can simply be a positive character, with good reasoning or not. That’s another issue – these characters always seem to be negative in some way. I want to just give them a hug and tell them that they’re beautiful person, even if the author or the protagonist doesn’t seem to agree.
They deserve a hug as well.
So, if you know about some partying protagonists or siblings who are portrayed positively and interestingly, then cherish them, because they are a rare breed.