Dumber in Fiction

This might not actually end up being either very long or very rant-y, but it did strike me this morning, and I haven’t written a proper post about annoying things in fiction for a while.

Why so many new students?

Seriously, I was just looking through my list of daily Book Gorilla deals and I swear I saw about four books that feature a teenager entering a new school. Not even a magic school or some kind of fantasy special thing, where the school is meant to be a large focus of the world and/or plot. Just a new high school, Twilight-style.

Is that what it is? But I can’t really leap up and say, “Well, Twilight did it, so it’s just like all of the books suddenly having vampires”. Simply because I think it’s one of those old clichés, like delivering character description using a mirror (yuck) or the rebellious princess running away from a marriage. It’s old and there, and it’s something that newbies just do.

In the case of a new school, I don’t think newbies even do it for the reasons they usually do stuff like this. I don’t think they are being safe or think they’re being clever by doing something this bloody rote with a single (insignificant) difference.

It’s particularly stupid when you think about how often people actually transfer to or enroll in new schools. It’s not a common occurrence in the US or Mexico (if memory serves), and most of these books are set in the former. There’s always a justification, but the one that I think happens more/most often in reality, I have almost never seen in fiction: military family.

Usually, the reason I have seen is due to a move (because change incites conflict! herpaderp), which is often in turn due to divorce or death. Sometimes remarriage, but that still falls somewhat under the category of divorce.

Those things do happen a lot, but in my actual life, I honestly saw more new students who came to our school from other countries than ones who moved/transferred because their parents got divorced. Another good reason that I usually only see mishandled is when the student in question got into too much trouble in his or her previous school, and was either made to leave, or voluntarily transferred to get away from the stigma of being a disciplinary nightmare.

One thing I have almost never seen is a student coming back to school after an absence. …at least, an absence that makes sense. The only one I can think of was disgustingly offensive–the main character had been in a mental institution. This was offensive because the writer didn’t know bug-all about it, and it was yet another instance of a speshal fantasy protagonist in a contemporary setting being mistreated by the normies. But that’s a rant for another day. Or hopefully never, I’d get way too mad.

No, I mean an absence like suspension, having to temporarily go away with family (for parent’s work, funeral, etc.), or having a baby. Why doesn’t anyone want to write a story with this kind of thing? Is it so that the main character can be just as new to their world as the reader? Because that gets old rather quick. People who read a lot probably trust the world and the characters to be just as interesting when they know each other. So long as the book and character don’t keep on making in-jokes while refusing to explain, set up, or share them with the reader.

There’s a rant I’d rather like to read. I don’t know that I’d write one myself. Anyway.

I was just thinking about this. I don’t know that it’s something that really ought to change–even though it adds to the stale, piss-poor offerings in the YA market, especially in self-publishing efforts.

Huh. I guess it was long. Still not all that rant-y. Probably a good thing.

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