Where’s the Funny? A Call for More Humor in Young Adult Books
Before I start this post, let me first say that I’m really excited to be making this tour stop at the Howling Turtle. I have never heard a turtle howl, so color me intrigued. Also, hi everyone, and thanks for reading!
I feel like I need to start this post with a joke, since I’m writing about humor in YA and all. Admittedly, I may have backed myself into a corner when I titled this post in a decidedly unfunny way. I might as well have called it, “Tut, Tut, Tut, Another Person Complaining About Those Pesky Young Adult Books.”
That’s not the case at all. I love young adult literature. (You would hope so, given that my first book is YA: The End of the World As We Know It, an e-book from Alloy Entertainment.) I’ve been reading Young Adult literature since long before it was called that on such a massive scale, back when it was still shelved in the children’s department of my library.
(No, I’m not an ancient being. I grew up in the '80s and came of [teen] age in the early '90s. So, maybe semi-ancient. But I still have all my original teeth.)
I was fortunate to enjoy one of the finest teen movie eras the world has ever seen, thanks to John Hughes, Back to the Future, The Goonies, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Clueless and a plethora of others. And in books as well I’ve always, always, gravitated to the funny. I can’t remember the title of every giggle-worthy paperback I checked out and gobbled up but I can remember vaguely that many featured heroes and heroines with unique voices, each of whom knew their way around a sharp observation or one-liner. And who, let's face it, could fall funny. (Or get food in their teeth funny, or say the total wrong thing funny…you get the idea.)
Nowadays, I’m finding it harder to get my humor fix, as the books grow darker and darker. Even Meg Cabot, one of my favorite funny authors, has gone to the dark side. All these works are amazing, and I'm astonished by the skills of all the world-building authors out there, but rarely do I read a passage where I laugh so hard I worry about bladder control. (As I did with Cabot's works many a time. Thanks, Meg.. ..Oh, no, I didn’t get it checked out. I will.) I get it: who’s got time for a punchline or a pratfall in a dystopian landscape of squalor and oppression? But you can’t blame a girl for wanting.
I think the reason I find humor so important in young adult books is because being a young adult is so very HARD. Many details of my adolescence have faded but I quite clearly remember that it really could suck a lot. Think about all that's asked of a teenager: School pressures. College pressures. Part-time job pressures. Puberty, both generally and specifically. Friends who like you. People who say they're friends but act kind of like, well, jerks. Teachers who act like jerks. Parents who act like jerks. Brain voices that act like jerks (or was that just me?) A lot of jerks, or at least jerk-esque behavior. Plus, possibly having no money, having no car, having the wrong jeans and maybe the wrong genes. If you make it through the teen years with none of these woes, or some other woes, then clearly you should be cast as the villain in my next novel.
Oh, and wait, I forgot about all the QUESTIONS. Questions like what to do with yourself, who to love, why who you love doesn't love you, what you believe, why you're not like your family, why you are like your family, why there’s nothing to do in this town, how you’re going to get out of this town... Not to mention raging hormones, the occasional surprise massive zit attack, and the myriad humiliations of high school dances. Some people dig the drama, even thrive on it. The rest of us equip ourselves with humor, and it stays with us for the rest of our lives. I did the second thing. (It seemed like my only option since my name got spelled “Ivan” in my eighth grade yearbook and appeared next to a photo of me flashing the shiniest, largest braces you can have without someone trying to recycle your mouth. And that was just eighth grade.)
In The End of the World As We Know It, my four characters are trapped in a basement at a party when they become the only survivors of an alien attack. Even when things seem at their darkest, though, they each crack wise. That is what I would be doing, too, if I were nearly peeing myself with fear. (Funny how fright and comedy both make you wet yourself.)
Is that wrong? Laughs amid the wreckage? I don't think so, but even if you do think so, I hope you still find it hilarious.
I realize now that I’ve reached the end of this post and haven’t exactly made my call for more humor in YA books, so I’ll cap it all off with this: Please, genius authors, do what you want – you’re clearly onto something because the world loves you and so do I. Plus, you all come up with so many hot guys. Yowza. But…if you happen to be writing along and someone takes a pratfall on the shattered remains of what once was earth, I’ll be there, nodding in comedic unity. (And, yes, practicing sphincter control.)
Iva-Marie Palmer is the author of The End of the World As We Know It, a sci-fi action comedy from Alloy Entertainment (creators of Pretty Little Liars, Gossip Girl, The Vampire Diaries). For a laugh, find her online on Twitter (@ivamarie), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/ivamariebooks) and at her website (www.ivamariepalmer.com).
Author of The End of the World as We Know It from Alloy Entertainment. It's currently available as a NOOK exclusive from Barnes and Noble. Look for it on Kindle and other e-readers on August 18.
Palmer lives in Los Angeles with her husband and son and lots of (filled) bookshelves.
For more information, check out her bio on Alloy Entertainment's official site and keep up with her at ivamariepalmer.com.
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