I write about boys. A lot. In fact, most of my main characters are boys. I guess I’m interested in how boys think and what they might do in certain situations, because really, I don’t know. Most of all, I try to write boys that girls will want to read about. Real boys with a little more flair. Which brings me to Justin Bieber.
Is Justin the guy we’re writing and reading about in YA books? Nope. Not even close.The boys we read/write about are often tall, handsome without knowing it or the charistmatic and cute boy-next-door, sometimes funny, sometimes serious, and often struggling to figure out who they are. They’re not perfect, but we love them. Can’t get enough of them, in fact. So why aren’t there more “Justins” in YA books? Read on.
In reality, I think that the Biebs is just a caricature of himself in a lot of ways—–he acts the way we expect a pop star to act. If he’d never gone the singing route, would he honestly dress the way he does now, have as many tattoos or do as much posturing? Maybe, but most likely, he’d be like any other nineteen-year-old, probably working his butt off to stay afloat in school and have a social life at the same time. He wouldn’t be globetrotting, he wouldn’t have 1000 people re-tweeting a post that says “writing”, and only his closest circle would know about his screw ups. He’d be a normal teen.
But what if we DID write books with characters in them like Justin Bieber? Here’s what we can learn from J.B., and what we’d be writing:
THE PANTS. THE HAT. THE GLASSES.
Justin has style. He doesn’t apologize for the droopy leather things he’s passing off as pants these days. He wears them proudly. With everything. And don’t you just love the dirty ball cap thing! Can you imagine if we started dressing our characters in his getups? It would go something like this:
“Oooh, Sarah, check out that new babe. I heard he just moved here from L.A.”
Sarah peered over her shoulder, trying not to make it obvious. The new guy was hot, all right. She couldn’t make out the color of his eyes under those reflective aviators, but it made him seem mysterious, and the hallway lights were a little bright. His jeans rested precariously atop bony hips as he sauntered down the hall, moving like he didn’t have to be anywhere until he got there. But it was the extra flair—–the crisp, white boxers that puffed out around his belt, and the grungy John Deere cap turned backward with just the right crush to the top—–that really set him apart. Ooh, how she’d love to run her fingers under that ball cap.
HISTORY IS FASCINATING!
When Justin went abroad earlier this year, he made a quick stop at the house where Anne Frank hid from the Nazis with her family. His caring entourage made no stink when The Biebs jotted a quick note in the guest log. Turns out, he thought Anne would have been a “Belieber”. I’m sure she would have been, J. So, let’s add a bit more history to our books. Readers will learn and be entertained!
Jimmy didn’t know what all the fuss was about. The guys who died on the TITANIC must’ve been total fairy jobs.
“C’mon, Mr. Wheeler. Those life boats were for everyone. If I’d been there, they woulda let me on, for sure.”
The history teacher turned back from the blackboard. “And why is that, Jimmy?”
He couldn’t believe he’d have to explain it. It seemed obvious. “I mean, look at me. A whole boatload of girls? They would’ve wanted someone to look at while they were waiting to be rescued, right?” In fact, he was pretty sure they might have even named one of the lifeboats after him once they were picked up. It would have been a positive spin on the whole dumb accident.
THE SURPRISED LOOK
It seems J.B. is not alone in this “don’t I look sexy and vulnerable” look. Eyebrows raised, eyes wide, shocked baby mouth. (Jaden Smith is taking his cues from Justin here. Either that or they’ve both had surgery to permanently freeze their faces into this oft-photographed look.) I guess girls care too much about getting wrinkles to constantly have our foreheads creased. Boys? Not so much.
Cassie couldn’t stand it any longer. “What’s the matter? Why do you keep looking at me like that?”
Stephen continued his raised-eyebrow stare. “Like what?”
“Like that. Didn’t your mom ever tell you your face would freeze that way?”
She laughed at her own joke, but it was lost on poor Stephen. If only she knew how hard it was to keep up the sexy. Not that it wasn’t worth it; the women loved the sexy. Yep, lurved it. She must have cramps or somethin’, he thought.
All right, I know it’s a chain. Honestly, though, maybe the poor kid looks so troubled all the time because that darn chain is too heavy for him. But, gotta keep up with the big boyz, right?
It was going to be another one of those days. Sam’s alarm failed to go off again, leaving him in bed for an extra 45 minutes. That meant he was going to be late for school. Third time this week, to be exact. But so what if he didn’t have time to shower? He didn’t smell that bad, and anyway, he could get away with the sexy bed-head look. Not like some of his friends.
He threw on a crumpled t-shirt, piled on the gold snake-chains and the Jesus medallion he’d bought at Walmart, and headed out the door. He was stylin’!
Okay, these little snippets were just for fun. Justin Bieber is the same as any other famous person, really. We want him to be interesting and controversial. We want to see his ups and his downs, and we follow him because he doesn’t disappoint in that respect. And there is talent in there, after all, whether you love him or not.
But writing diverse characters is a tough job. While everyone else is still writing the cute-best-friend-turned-boyfriend schtick, maybe you should try creating someone who is likeable, but unexpected. Maybe a girl could fall for the wanna-be boy from the ‘hood. If you make him genuine enough, make him have reasons for wanting to be that guy, it could turn YA on it’s head. I’d love to read more characters like this, ones that I want to dislike, but can’t get enough of because they are so insanely cliche and fascinating because of that. It’s all about voice, after all. Justin Bieber is proof.