I remember thinking three years ago, as I was preparing myself for freshman year, better get ready for:
1) Nerds getting shoved into lockers. A lot.
2) The cafeteria being separated into very obvious cliques
3) "weird" people sitting in the corners, friendless and menacing
4)Jocks and cheerleaders ruling the school
5) Random people coming up to me and offering me drugs on a daily basis.
and um, lots of other misguided and stupid apprehensions. Maybe I'm just oblivious but in the three years I've been in high school, I've noticed that none of the above are true. In fact, they're blatantly false. My high school doesn't even have lockers, no one eats in the cafeteria unless they can help it, "weird" people have bigger groups of friends than jocks, and I've never come across a queen bee cheerleader or ruling football player. I like to shout a resounding NO to ever having someone ask me to do drugs with them.
And while I'm at it, I would also like to point out that most people don't pass notes under teacher's noses (it's called texting, haha), we like and use formspring and facebook a lot, Saturday school/detention is for people who are tardy, it's actually extremely easy to ditch and good kids do it quite often. Also, I've never experienced young
It's actually quite a pleasant surprise to not have to deal with any of the high school expectations I derived from what movies and books told me high school would be like. But where do they come from? Why do books continue to include wrongful high school stereotypes, when it's clear they aren't true?
I think many of these high school stereotypes come from teen movies, but sometimes I notice them leaking into YA novels too. And I think that sometimes YA novels take a bit of too much inspiration from teen movies when it comes to portraying high school dynamics.
So you can understand my confusion, when I read books in which mean jocks (of course hopelessly dumb, and good-looking) and cheerleaders (invariably blonde and well-dressed) are popular and pick on the poor, helpless outcasts or nerds who are really the awesome ones on the inside.
I've found that popularity (or lack of it) has absolutely no bearing on how cruel a person can be. Nerds are just as likely to pick on somebody as a jock is. That cheerleader that sits next to me in class? Total genius, and nice too. Can't say much about how popular she is though.
And another thing: I don't know if my high school is just the odd-one out, but I can barely tell who's popular and who's not. I'm kind of wary of using the word "popular", even though I have been. Popularity is such a weird term, anyhow. There is most definitely no queen bee that I'm aware of. There's no "in" group, in which the nerds and every other person is aspiring to be part of. We're just a random mixture of kids--who, yes--do separate into groups. But these groups are mostly based off of what activities we're involved in: there are the ASB kids, the soccer-playing kids, the artistically talented kids. But there's also the kids that have what seems like nothing in common except an English class together, and they get along well. There's a lot of interaction between these groups, as well. Cheerleaders are friends with anime-obsessed kids. Top students are friends with jocks. Sometimes, cheerleaders are the nerds. Sometimes, jocks are the top students. All these stereotypes are more often wrong then they're right.
And maybe, YA should reflect that.
I'm sort of wondering where all AP classes are in YA protagonist schedules.
And I'm a baffled by the total lack of students who are stressed out from school. There's not a sign of the college application frenzy that devours seniors in the fall, where everything anyone talks about is college. Where seniors are freaking out because this is their future on the line. What about the scholarship applications and financial aid applications to fill out?
And I'd like to see characters coming home from school and being buried under five hours of homework, or studying insanely for a test. Heck, I'd like to see someone studying frantically for the SAT/ACT, or bemoaning spending Saturdays taking standardized testing, or being consumed by their AP study guide and AP testing, or freaking out about finals week. I'd love to see characters who are procrastinating endlessly on assignments and staying up the whole night to do schoolwork. Or even doing something that remotely has to do with high school academics.
Okay, so maybe writing or reading about a character that just goes home and does their homework everyday for a few hours is boring, but it makes me resentful of all these YA characters who don't seem to have anything on their plate, school-wise, but are still described as "straight-A, ivy league-bound overachievers"
That is beyond ridiculous. And yet, they still have time to be in forever-in-love with paranormal creatures or out partying or whatever. If they really have that much time on their hands, they better have a 1.0 G.P.A and not be involved in an extracurricular activities at all (and their parents better be enrolling them in tutoring and grounding them. And for that matter, where are all the helicopter parents? Parents in general?).
We're not all devoted to our boyfriends or friends, and can't go out for hours everyday on weekdays just to hang out. I think about every single person I know is involved in some sort of after school activity. Sports (about half my school is on the track team). Clubs. Yearbook. Choir. ASB. Internships. Jobs. Dance. BLOGGING (tehe, just threw that in there).
And there's barely a sign of these after-school activities in YA books.
While some of the real aspects of high school might be boring to write or read about, it's a bit disconcerting to see some very important parts of high school completely left out of the books I'm reading. I'm left thinking that maybe I go to anomaly of a school, or that I'm completely oblivious to the workings of high school. Except, somehow I don't think so.
It'd be nice to see some of these stereotypes contradicted in contemporary books. It'd be nice to see some corresponding high school stress for students. I don't think some adults realize how busy teens are nowadays. We're running from school to sports to clubs to home to babysit and squeezing in time for the internet or TV. I'd like to see a character struggling to balance school with their social lives, and who by very virtue of their character subverts some of these stereotypes.
What do you think? Does high school in YA seem realistic to you?