1. High School Cliques
Going to the cafeteria for lunch in a YA book is like walking into the jungle. Everyone has a group and a table where they belong, and it’s survival of the fittest out there. Try to take the cheerleader’s seat, and you’ll find yourself the target of bullying for the rest of the year, if not your life. In reality, most teenagers probably couldn’t even identify the cheerleaders or the skaters or the whatevers, and would describe themselves as floating between multiple groups of friends.
2. Teen Slang
Book teens are all up on the latest slang. It peppers their speech, their texts, and their thoughts. Real teens tend to think all those “cool” words are just as embarrassing and awkward as their parents do and claim to use text abbreviations mainly facetiously.
3. The Love Triangle
Some lucky real-life teens probably do have multiple guys or girls fighting for their love. A few of them may even have a hard time choosing among all those suitors, and spend countless hours making lists of pros and cons for choosing a date. However, the average teen’s love life is not so exciting. Those who aren’t in a nice, normal relationship are either not looking for love at all, pining fruitlessly over that cute girl in chem, or just trying to avoid that creep who keeps stalking them in the halls.
Fiction prom is a magical night for teens, the night when adoring high school sweethearts get to celebrate their perfect love together while wearing designer evening gowns and dancing gracefully in a ballroom that has been glamorously decorated to look like a palace on the moon. Real life prom is a night that is mildly more fun than an average night when teens get to eat mediocre food in a local hotel’s conference room and attempt to dance to the current Top 40.
5. College Applications
The average fiction protagonist will apply to an average of three schools and get into all three, including their top choice, even if that top choice is Yale. The average real teen will be instructed by their guidance counselors to apply to an average of 8-12 schools because the risk of not getting into any of them is all too real, even for students with high grades and strong extracurriculars. True story: The salutatorian at my friend’s high school applied to 11 colleges (including a number of “safety schools”) and was rejected from every single one.