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27 Things Writers Get Wrong About Teenagers In Books, According To Teens

"YA novels always seem to show two people having an extravagant love story at the age of 16."

We asked the teens of the BuzzFeed Community to tell us what authors usually get wrong when writing teen protagonists in books. Here are some of the most popular replies:

1. Not everything revolves around being in a relationship or wanting to be in a relationship in high school.

20th Century Fox

"Not everyone dates in high school!! In fact, a lot of people don't! Some want to, but a whole bunch of kids aren't even interested!"

urpalshayla

"LOVE TRIANGLES. They don’t really exist in real life."

s49c3f3605

"Authors think we’re all desperate to have sex and/or be in a relationship. Some of us are happy on our own!"

elh112

2. Not every teen is having sex ALL the time.

Summit

"There's way too much sex. We aren't all having sex all the damn time. Some of us are, some aren't."

personallyhannahnystrom

"They seem to exaggerate our love/sex lives. Most of us don't have sex that much (or leave high school as virgins) and no one really cares."

n41cd42002

"YA novels always seem to show two people having an extravagant love story at the age of 16. That may be the case for a lucky few who manage to find love in high school, but most of us either aren’t ready, haven’t found anyone, or just don’t have time with our homework load."

peskychesky833

"Sex! I noticed this A LOT in To All the Boys I've Loved Before as well as in some others. There’s this fixation on losing virginity and having sex while in high school, but a lot of us are more focused on other stuff."

mk2264

"Teens aren't only focused on romance. We have other stuff going on in our lives. No, I won't go on a date with a dude bro I just met because I have seven tests to study for!"

costcoffee

"Most teens aren’t having sex 24/7 and sleeping around constantly. Based on my experience, for high schoolers who do have/have had sex, it’s usually in established relationships — and even then it’s not like they’re having sex every single day. I love Sex Education, but Maeve and Jackson’s relationship was completely unrealistic."

sophien4f064924c

3. A lot of teens are queer, or they're going through a phase of figuring out their sexual identity.

20th Century Fox

"There’s not just the one token gay person. Literally 98% of my friends are LGBTQ!"

duhque

"There’s this series called The House of Night, and the book references Damien's sexuality too much. Like, to the point that it’s pretty much making him out to be only gay. In the 13 books, there’s like 20 references PER BOOK to him being gay. He’s not even the main character! He’s so much more than his sexuality."

ljd3

"Teens aren’t just plain straight or plain gay. Puberty often means questioning your sexual identity, even if you don’t always mention it verbally. There isn’t enough of the questioning or confusion phase represented in books."

hollyb31

4. Witty banter between crushes isn't a super relatable high school experience.

Entertainment One

"The witty talk to the crushes or people they just met! God, I couldn't get out two coherent words to my crush when I was a teen, let alone a smart, flirty response to whatever they're saying."

latica002

5. Teenage stereotypes of cliques are usually wrong. Teens aren't defined by specific "groups."

Disney

"Authors think that we fit into stereotypes of each clique. Like, for example, cheerleaders are rude, snotty, judgmental, and overly concerned about their appearances. In some cases these are accurate, but not even in most cases. As a band kid, I see how much work the cheerleaders and football players put into what they do, and most of the people I know in each group are pretty great even if we don’t share common interests. The stereotype that people in one clique hate people from other cliques is entirely false. Most of us are too tired or too busy to hate each other."

akgirl03

"The stereotypes in books are always so extreme. These never exist in real life. Sure, everyone has their interests — but the way books show everyone being separated into stereotypical cliques is completely false."

zaaaaaaaaaabby

6. Being in high school is super time-consuming! Intense homework loads and after-school activities are hardly ever recognized in books about teens.

Netflix

"High school academics are super demanding, and along with the constant pressure to be involved in school sports, volunteering, and anything else that would look good on a college application, there is no time to breathe or sleep. Honestly, I got like three hours of sleep last night."

annieveas

"Teenagers (especially those in advanced classes) don’t have time to hang out with friends every single day of the week! And there’s barely enough time for anything else because when we’re not doing homework, we’re probably watching Netflix."

megafurn

"We don’t have a lot of time with friends — not nearly as much as movies/TV/books. Homework takes up everything. I'm also a high school junior and AP student, so I'm doing a lot."

rthorpe34

"I feel like classes and workload is often overlooked. High school is so tough and the classes are hard. I almost never have time to myself for much. Also, they never include AP classes, which is odd because they’re such a big deal at my school. I feel like authors write about what their experience was like in a modern light, which isn’t true. I hate it when kids in YA books are just having the time of their lives with no worries because it isn’t true."

ipurdy14

7. Uniforms aren't as cute in real life as they are in books.

The CW

"Why are uniforms so great in teen books and movies while my uniform is the ugliest thing in my closet?"

quirkybooks

8. When it comes to getting ready for school, a LOT of teens love "lazy fashion" aka sweatpants.

Entertainment One

"We don’t spend hours in the morning getting ready. I want to see a protagonist who wears jeans, a T-shirt, and a sweatshirt every day of high school, or even occasionally has slob days and wears sweats."

magicalfish31

"FOR THE LOVE OF GOD TEENS WEAR SWEATPANTS OFTEN."

hollys4af76bd26

"I just want someone, anyone, in a movie/book/show to dress like actual teenagers. We wear leggings and sweatshirts or jeans and a simple T-shirt, not anything crazy like heels or dresses every day. Jeez."

e2001

"TEENS IN BOOKS ARE ALWAYS PERFECTLY DRESSED UP! I have never met a teenager that hangs around their house in stilettos and fancy dresses."

femFIGHT

"We don’t show up to school every day in like five-inch heels and designer dresses. We show up in messy buns and leggings/jeans, or in a uniform. School starts at 8 a.m., for crying out loud! We don’t have the time to pick out a whole ensemble."

human_being1757

9. And I hate to break it to you, but there's not a ton of enormous high school house parties.

Entertainment One

"Many teens don't go to big, stereotypical high school parties. It's too loud with too many people. We just want to hang out with a couple of friends and watch TV/YouTube/TikTok."

brigibooklover

"At my school, we never had a high school party like the ones they show in the movies or books. A typically party is 10 seniors, White Claws, vodka, and possibly throwing up on the floor."

alexakowbel

"There's always high school parties! Most of us would get our ass beat if we even touched the front door past 11 p.m."

thatsayikesfromme

"There’s hardly ever huge parties with lots of students there. Maybe it’s because I’m from a smaller town, but I’ve never heard of that one kid with a crazy huge house whose parents are always gone throwing school-wide ragers all the time. It’s my least favorite part of any YA story."

hollyb31

"We don't go to big parties every weekend. I’m a sophomore and I’ve only been to, like, four parties total in the last two years. Usually the only big parties are around homecoming, prom, and the one big football game at my school."

icegirl2022

10. Parents in books don't seem realistic because they're either not mentioned or don't EVER enforce rules.

Fox 2000

"Where are the parents? I can’t name a single teen protagonist with realistic parents. I’m 17 and still get 10 calls from my mom if she doesn’t know where I am at all times."

sam9502

"Why are there never any strict parents? All the characters are able to go on trips, sleepovers, late-night adventures, etc. all the time. My parents would never let me get away with all of these things."

redchris

"We can’t go wherever we want. Most aren’t even allowed out without their parents' permission. And sleepovers? If approved, they must be completely supervised. 99% of teens don’t have their own car, and parents don’t just supply unlimited gas money."

lovelyskull63

"Parents that let teens go out at any time of the day! I never understand how curfews just do not exist for teens."

fionam58996531779

11. Most teens don't have bad/distant relationships with their parents. In fact, they need their parents.

The CW

"One thing authors get wrong is not being close with their parents. Me and most of my friends are really close with our moms, but parents rarely come up on most teen literature. When they do, then we come across as being super bratty."

gabriellaneyman

"Authors think parents are unnecessary. Teenagers still need parents. They need advice, they need rules, they need help, they need rides, they need money, they need love — they need parents."

huh448

"They think we all all have zero respect for our parents, mostly in realistic fiction books. All the depressed teens in books are constantly yelling at their parents or cussing them out. It's so unrealistic and exaggerated."

smileychipmunk68

12. Teens really do care about involving themselves in important issues, like climate change and politics.

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

"We're not always worrying about how many likes we get on an Instagram post or what drama is going on at our school. We are worried about climate change, school shootings, and who’s going to win the 2020 election! (And to those who can vote, please vote!)"

alanab474fd6e9b

"In media, there are very few characters who really care about politics and the world around them, and they are often ridiculed by other characters. In my experience, I've found that most of the people in my generation have strong opinions about politics and the state of the world, and we've done a lot more than people recognize. It's seen as cool to be politically active. People won't get bullied or anything for being politically active, although people will argue/debate with people of opposing views (which is a normal thing to do.)"

madisonee

"We do care deeply about politics, even if some of us aren't educated about certain topics."

griffindragon988

13. The college application process is never accurately portrayed in books.

Yinyang / Getty Images

"The college application process! If you apply early decision or early action, then you know in the early winter. Most students who are really excited about a school will apply early and know whether or not they are attending. Almost everyone will have committed to a school by May 1 — unless they get off the waitlist at another school. The college application process is something many teenagers experience, so to see it so royally messed up in the books directed toward us is really frustrating."

elizabethn4b2cd0507

14. And — PSA — IT IS NOT EASY TO GET INTO AN IVY LEAGUE SCHOOL!!!!

ABC Family

"Although they never study or do homework, teens in books magically get straight A's — and get accepted into Ivy League universities."

visionaryshield27

"In every show, book, and movie, the teenager (no matter how dumb they are) gets into their dream college. It is SO annoying. Not how it works!"

jobro4evr

"Authors make it seem like it’s simple to get into an Ivy League school."

rivkaa

15. There's a certain level of privilege seen in characters who just go off on these grand adventures in books.

20th Century Fox

"Midnight adventures. This trope always drove me crazy because it’s always in books about upper-middle-class teenagers. I was from a low-income school, so if we wanted to go to college we couldn’t afford those types of misadventures, and NONE of my friends from wealthier areas did that kind of stuff. The only people I knew who did had no intention of going to college."

kevinm41b9dbc63

16. Teens definitely aren't made of money.

Summit

"I’m recently out of my teens but always found it funny that teens in books could afford things like daily Starbucks runs or designer clothes. I was always a gas station hot chocolate and thrift store kind of teen."

sparklyalligator43

"Teens in books all have unlimited amounts of cash to shop and eat out. Then they all loose their virginity on prom night in expensive hotels. OK?!"

oldminion52

17. Authors will make teens seem MUCH older than they really are by the way they talk.

Summit

"Personally, I always feel like authors try and make teens sound so much older. No 16-year-old is actually talking in quotes of dead philosophers or authors and if they are, they weren’t liked in my high school. Teenagers can be deep and insightful, but when writers try and make them sound like a 25-year-old grad student with an English degree, it's ridiculous."

britainc

18. Books just don't nail the teenage lingo.

Screen Gems

"I feel like a lot of authors don’t understand how teens think and talk. When something bad happens we don’t go, 'OMG, that’s so embarrassing, right?' Also, we don’t all swear every second word."

emilyf4a6fb358d

"Some of us definitely do swear every second word, ahaha!"

sierrablack

"If authors use slang, it’s not anything teens actually use."

mel275

"I think the slang is always off. I know our vocabulary changes often, but books and movies always have it so wrong. In books, the dialogue isn’t as 'silly,' while in recent teen movies, the slang is cringeworthy."

tiasofia

19. And not EVERY teen is a mega-smart hacker.

Lionsgate

"We’re not master hackers! It seems like every teen movie has one character who can hack into school, company, or even government servers."

asiaa4ef4835aa

20. Bullying is often exaggerated in books when in reality it happens in a subtle way (if at all).

Lionsgate

"The whole 'she’s been my bully since the first grade' thing never actually happens. Nobody is going to pour a protein shake on anyone just because of what you did to them in the first grade."

thesneakykitten

"Physical fights do not happen frequently. If anything, it's more common to see academic bullying (i.e., in comparing grades), although it's not always intentional. I will admit, though, that students (both guys and girls) can damage someone's reputation with gossip or rumors even if they don't intend to hurt the person."

freyanne

"Bullying today isn’t as confrontational as it used to be. Maybe you’ll hear or see someone fight in the hallways, but it’s a pretty rare occurrence, especially amongst girls. Most bullying today is subtle, online, and/or consists of people griping about someone behind their backs (and that person being talked about doesn’t always find out)."

hollyb31

"We may internally freak out over acne, but no one else really cares or points it out (unless you have really close friends that want to tease you a bit). Most half-decent students will not laugh with someone who bullies another for their glasses, braces, or acne. If anything, the students will defend the kid being bullied and report the bully."

freyanne

21. And a dark sense of humor is common among teens!

Entertainment One

"I often find that the humor in many teen movies/books is outdated, too young, or simply boring. A lot of teens today have very nihilistic or pessimistic views of the world, which means lots of dark humor and incredibly inappropriate jokes."

httpmya

22. Most teachers aren't terrible, awful people who are out to sabotage students.

STX Entertainment

"Relationships with teachers are either treated as if they are mortal enemies or a second parental figure. Sometimes teachers are just chill people who make class tolerable instead of helping kids find the meaning of life. It doesn't always have to be that deep."

novacaineblues

23. International school trips, in reality, are rare.

Netflix

"Not all teenagers go on international school trips every year! Even when schools offer them, it's super hard to get accepted and way more expensive than regular trips."

britttles

24. Peer pressure isn't as cliché as it appears in books.

Lionsgate

"Peer pressure really isn’t a thing. I was offered to hit a Juul once and I said no, and the girl literally said, 'Okay, I hope you have a great day!' Everyone’s pretty chill about that stuff."

kxllynxcxlx

25. And PSA: Teens get zits.

Disney

"It's unrealistic reading a book where one person has acne. You can’t avoid pimples and zits, especially when you’re in an environment that has you constantly surrounded by sweaty teens."

smolpotatoarmy

"We don’t have perfect skin. Unrealistic."

bluepancakebutterfly

26. They also have — gasp! — periods!

Piyapong Thongcharoen / Getty Images

"Periods happen every month and...they suck."

pizzagirl365

27. Finally, not everyone is searching for the meaning of life in high school.

Hulu

"Not all teens are looking for romance and adventure and some 'great truth'! Most of us go to school, come home, eat an unhealthy amount of snacks, do homework for hours, and then go to bed."

booklover321

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Some submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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