A lot of the time, fluffy YA novels that contain fun storylines where the reader doesn’t have to think too much are labelled as ‘trashy’. Like these books are lesser than everything else that’s being published because they’re being consumed for sheer entertainment value. But I don’t think these books should be looked down upon in the way they have in recent years. Of course there’s no disputing that it’s necessary to have YA novels that make people think and allow people to become aware of issues they might not experience in their own insular lives, but that doesn’t make ‘trashy’ novels any less valid.
Looking back on the first few books that got me into YA, most of them would be considered ‘trashy’. There’s not much serious content in books like Hush, Hush or Twilight or Anna and the French Kiss, but that doesn’t make them bad novels. So how come these are the types of books that are so obviously ridiculed by adult fiction readers who sneer at anyone reading anything that’s targeted at a young adult audience? It’s almost as if they’d rather everyone be condemned to reading nothing but Hamlet and The Great Gatsby and Heart of Darkness, the likes of which have been shown to turn young people off reading over and over again if they’re forced to read books they’re not interested in.
The biggest mistake there is to make is thinking that books without some strong message or books that aren’t so powerful that they move you to tears is that they’re unworthy of your time and attention. That all books that weren’t written to teach or guide are a waste of time. But to me, some of the best and most important books I’ve read are those that were just light and fun and ‘trashy’. The first book that got me into YA was Hush, Hush, and if I never read that ‘trashy’ novel about love and fallen angels, riddled with every cliche known to humankind, I’m not sure I’d be the same reader I am today. It was my door into YA.
What makes me angry is how so many older family members and teachers push the classics onto teens, telling them that they will enjoy this book and they will learn something from it, if only for an assignment. That’s the reason why I think books that are read for enjoyment alone are looked down upon. What happened to encouraging people to read books they want to read, no matter how ‘trashy’ they seem? What happened to reading for fun and nothing else? Not every book has to contain a lesson, and not every novel will change your life. Sometimes books are just fun, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
If you can’t tell, I’m a massive fan of ‘trashy’ YA novels. I absolutely love picking up a book I know I’ll just be able to lose myself in and read for the fun of it, without having to think too much. But there’s still more ‘trashy’ YA novels I’d love to see. I want to see ‘trashy’ queer books. ‘Trashy’ books featuring a diverse cast of characters. If there’s one thing I’ve realised from reading these so-called trashy YA novels is that so many of them feature allocishet white characters, but I think that needs to change.
People from all backgrounds and all minorities deserve to see themselves in what they read, and that includes ‘trashy’ novels as well. Not every book featuring queer characters should have to be a poignant, moving coming out story. Not every book featuring a protagonist who isn’t white should be about overcoming racism. Sure, these elements might exist in other novels, but that doesn’t mean these people don’t deserve fun, light, fluffy books as well. And that’s what I’m so desperately craving.
So yeah, I love trashy books. But there’s still work to be done. We need to stop thinking about these kind of books as though they’re lesser, and realise that the fluffy YA novels are books that people want to read. Everyone needs a book to escape into once in a while, and we shouldn’t feel the pressure to constantly be reading ‘important’ and ‘powerful’ books because they’re more highly praised. Allow yourself to be immersed in a ‘trashy’ story. Let reading be a fun thing, not just an activity you partake in. Spread the love for all your favourite ‘trashy’ novels.
Recent good trashy reads…
I went into Legendary with way lower expectations than I approached Caraval with, and I can honestly say that this improved my reading experience tenfold. I didn’t like Caraval — I thought it had no depth to it, the characters were endlessly frustrating, the twists were obvious, and I was just left unsatisfied. But then Legendary was released, and I was like: You know what? Let’s give this a go. May as well find out what happens next. To say I went into it with low expectations would be an understatement. My expectations were below the ground, and if I’m being perfectly honest, I might have just been tempted to read this book to spill the tea on how terrible it is.
But you know what… I actually loved it. Shocking, I know. But I threw out the preconceived ideas I took into Caraval with me after all the hype and prepared myself for what I’d find. I knew it was going to be a trash-fire that would be laughably predictable in parts. I knew the characters were going to get on my nerves. I made peace with those facts, and you know what? I had such a blast reading this novel. It was such a fun, trashy novel and I’m so pleased I decided to approach it in a different way than I had the previous novel. It was the kind of book I could just settle down with and have a laugh at, and sometimes that’s all you need.
It definitely helped to approach this book from a different angle, and there were things I liked about it that wasn’t just laughing at it. The magic! And the secrets people keep and how nothing is never black or white! I never knew who I could trust, and that was so much fun to experience. I was taken on such an enjoyable adventure and I really enjoyed getting to read from Tella’s point of view, who, thankfully, is simnifically less whiny than Scarlett (who is definitely my most-hated protagonist of all time). Legendary was such good trash, and I’m so happy I decided to pick it up. What a hoot.
One Small Thing was a book I went into without knowing anything about, and I ended up having a lot of fun reading it! It’s always a little difficult to adjust your expectations of something (in this case, I expected it to be a cute contemporary with darker undertones) to the reality (not having much depth and brushing over so many aspects to get on with the romance), but once I realised this was going to be more of a trashy read, I loved it. It was the kind of book I looked forward to reading at the end of the day — a book where I knew I could just turn my brain off for a while and fall into this swoon-worthy romance.
Oh god, there’s nothing I love more than a bad boy with a heart of gold. You know I’m interested when there’s a bad boy with a heart of gold involved. Chase was everything I wanted from the love interest: misunderstood, kind, and honesty just so swoon-worthy. I adored the romance in this book. Even though One Small Thing also dealt with issues like loss and death and blame, those elements seemed kind of half-done to me, which is why it was more of a trashy read for me. They did add a bit of depth to the story, but at the end of the day, I was just here for the romance. That was enough for me, and man, it was fun. If you’re looking for a swoon-worthy contemporary with a bad boy with a heart of gold, this is your book.
I’ve spoken about this book quite a bit recently, but I think I need to scream about it a little bit more. Stuck on Vacation is such a fun, swoon-worthy romance set in the perfect location and with the hate-to-love trope, which I’m also a massive fan of. I knew this was going to be a fun, light read from the get-go, and I definitely wasn’t disappointed. It had me racing through the chapters, desperate to see when the characters would just KISS, DAMMIT, and I desperately wanted to know how things were going to turn out between them. It also gave me all the beach vibes, which was the perfect remedy for the cold few days I read it in.
But what surprised me most about Stuck on Vacation was how there was such a massive, unexpected twist at the end?! I was thoroughly shooketh. I’m still not over it. I loved the little elements of mystery that were scattered throughout the narrative, and I just couldn’t believe what a drastic turn the novel took. It went from being a fun, light read to something that had me racing through the pages, desperate to know what was going to happen. If you’re looking for a book to take on vacation with you, make it this one. It’s such a fun book and I can’t recommend it highly enough!
Some of my favourite ‘trashy’ YA novels…
Do you read ‘trashy’ books? What do you think of them? Have you read any of the ones that I’ve mentioned, or have any other recommendations for a fun read? I’ve love to know!
Thanks to Date a Book, HarperCollins, and P.S. Malcolm for providing me with copies of Legendary, One Small Thing, and Stuck on Vacation with Ryan Rupert respectively in exchange for an honest review!