Discussion Post: How realistic does a contemporary need to be?

discussion post

Summer is always the times that the feels come out for me. It’s just something about the season. It gets warmer, it’s lighter longer, and it’s full of great summer things like camping, sitting out on the porch to read, and fun adventures to the beach or zoo or other outdoor things (i.e. things Mandy doesn’t do because BUGS). It’s just a time that screams contemporary and all the fluffy feels from books.

As I’m about to bring myself into a spiral of contemporary and realistic fiction books, I realized that I was forever asking myself just how realistic I wanted for my contemporaries? I mean, I’m not talking about darkness and deepness – I’m talking about just how much of little realistic additions in a book I want? So, today, let’s talk about…

How realistic do we want our realistic fiction books to be?

I mean, let’s think back to the last 3 contemporary books that we read. When’s the last time we actually read about our main character going to the bathroom. Or having a period if it’s female main character. Or blowing their nose. Or sneezing. Or taking a shower. Or BRUSHING THEIR HAIR.

I mean, it’s simple things. Simple things that most of us do every single day. But where are they in contemporary fiction? If it is mentioned, it’s something usually throw away. A person is blowing their nose or sneezing when someone is sick. A person takes a shower to make tension when being stuck with someone they like or to think things over. A person goes to hide in the bathroom in an awkward party but not to actually use it???

starry eyes

I think the book that really prompted this all was Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett. I absolutely adored this book about two haters to lovers who get stuck in the wilderness after being dumped by friends on a camping trip. This book is full of self-discovery, self-journey, love, and so many feels. It’s basically the ultimate YA summer book.

However, a few times, I would be pulled out of the book with random stupid questions. I mean, these two are stuck in the woods out in the middle of nowhere. Where are they peeing? I mean, that would be such an awkward situation to be like, “Okay, Lennon, I’m totally feeling the feels with you, but, um, I must go pee around this tree now.” And then the whole shower situation??? Like, do you really want to be making out with greasy hair and a sheen of sweat because it’s hot???? I MEAN. I would be all over here panicked, spritzing my Bath and Body spray all over my body (aka so the mosquitoes can then feast on me and I get even more attractive with my little red bumps) and crafting a hat (I really mean a crown because I mean, this is me, princess lover) out of twigs to hide my hair.

But is any of this mentioned? Erm, not in any detail and not in any descriptions that I remember. It was questions that I had. And then promptly forgot because FEELS were HAPPENING and I just wanted to be in camp land without the bugs.

Image result for disney ew gif

Also, not bugs are never mentioned in YA, and I’m not okay with this, because I have like panics 3 times a day when I see a bug and how are these YA heroines and heroes not on my level??????

I guess the real question is are we really missing anything with these moments? I mean, do I really want to read about our MC going to the bathroom? BOOK NO. And I do really want to read about bugs while I’m waging my daily war with the bug population around me? Erm, no thanks. And do I really want to read an entire paragraph about the MC getting everything ready to go for the shower? Well, I mean, BORING.

However, I do find myself wondering…why aren’t these things mentioned? Everything is skated by. And I mean, I get it. It’s unnecessary and boring and we have feels to feel. Plus, we’re reading to escape. But sometimes I think it takes a bit away from the realism factor. I’m at the point now where all YA characters don’t eat unless at a family dinner, never use the bathroom, never have periods, are in bug free universes, and don’t understand the proper time to use showers.

Conclusion (because, seriously, this must come to a conclusion)? I’m not really sure. I don’t know if I want YAs to become more “realistic” if it’s going to include paragraphs on real things that I’m going to skip over anyway. But it’s still weird realizing all of the things that these books don’t include and trying to compute that. So do I really want anything to change? Eh. TBD.

So, what do you think? Do you want more realism in your books? Do you all the little things or are you SO good without? Have you found books that get super detailed with the moments? Let’s discuss in the comments below!


33 thoughts on “Discussion Post: How realistic does a contemporary need to be?

  1. I was kind of going nuts about this very thing yesterday as I read reviews for The Other Side of Lost. People were complaining that it was not very realistic, but you know, it’s fiction, so I’m ok with that. I don’t read fiction for the gritty or mundane accounts of real life. I read it for escape and maybe even so sort of pick-me-up. Real life can be a downer, but when fictional characters achieve something in a book, it makes me happy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Realism in book depends on its theme. In some book it make sense and in some the plot is pure entertainment and fun where you put realistic approach aside. In some books like thrillers details are deliberately omitted so that they can delay in catching culprit or so that culprit can escape. all these are fine up to some extent. But of course I don’t want whole lot of details in the book, it just make me keep rolling my eyes. In one book it was mentioned ‘he washed his hand and dried them with towel hanged on hook/bar… blah blah’. It wasn’t necessary! I could understand that he might have dried his hands or just dried with towel was enough… there was no need of specifying the place of towel! Too much details without logic is definitely big NO for me.
    Great post! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. OMG YES. I totally agree. I’ve read a few books that really described everything about picking an outfit and putting it on and every little details of the outfit and I’m like, can’t you just say get dressed??? I’m super with you without logic is a no go!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I wouldn’t be opposed to books being a little more realistic in some areas, like characters who have the capacity to have periods having periods, or characters actually getting sunburnt once in a while, but I super don’t want to read about someone going to the bathroom. I think we need more of a reminder that the character we’re trying to relate to is actual teenager (if it’s YA), as opposed to a supermodel-alien hybrid who for some reason never has pimples.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I just finished Starry Eyes yesterday and I agree with you on the showering thing, especially while reading that book because “sexlaxation” and not showering? yuck!
    Little details like that do remove you from the story, but in the grand scheme of things, I feel like little details like that are not usually missed in “realistic” fiction. I would personally like to see more references (and dealings) with periods because, at least for me, that particular “detail” does have a significant effect on my day…but that is just a personal preference.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ha ha!! I had a whole rant about this in a couple of my posts!! I am HUGE into picking on romance because everything is always perfect and no one seems to have any bodily needs! It’s just like the “morning after” scene when people wake up together and start making out… You don’t want to brush your teeth first, maybe?? Ha ha! I definitely like a little realism (at the same time I don’t need TOO MUCH realism. I don’t need a description of their bowel movements after that big meal they had together! 😂😂)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m ok with young adult fiction books not being 100 percent realistic. I know when I write a book I will most likely write young adult because you can break pretty much ANY rule in life there is and most people will shrug it off. I just mean you can literally do whatever like have vampires, wizards, dystopian worlds, instantlove and all that.

    I just commented about this on Twitter but wanted to leave a comment in both places just to support your post. 😉

    One thing that bugged me recently was Stay Sweet. The main girl character was talking about bringing the girls back to the ice cream stand with that guy… I don’t remember their names anymore. But she said they made $15 and the head girl made $17. UHHHH….. if you wanted to go a little over minimum $10 an hour would be a little more realistic. $15 is crazy. I was at Panera for almost ten years on and off and I was one of the best trainers. Not meaning to toot my own horn there, everybody said that, I was the right person to train people on their first couple of days since I had the right amount of patience and got everything done the right way and timely. And I didn’t ever make no $15 or $17. I was slightly under ten. That just really got me.

    If you bend the rules a little bit like that I think it needs to be a little bit more realistic because actual high school teenagers that don’t know any better might be like… hmmm now I’m going to make $15-17 an hour working at an ice cream stand all summer too! Awesome! That’s great! And I totally get this is young adult fiction.

    I need to stop ranting about this. I’ve been trying not to rant about that one thing though.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. This is a really interesting topic! I think it probably has to do with the fact that all scenes are supposed to contribute to the larger story. If the MC gets frightened by an insect to show that he is phobic or generally nervous, it contributes to character. If the MC swats away an insect and by so doing angers a fairy Queen, that contributes to the plot. If the bug is just showing up to show up because bugs exist, it hardly seems worth the page time, at least in my opinion. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve had the same questions myself! Sometimes things just feel so unrealistic. It would be great to see some daily struggles but like you said not a whole paragraph. Because things in real life isn’t perfect and life gets in the way of perfect moments.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I guess reading about characters using the bathroom would be a little tmi for some people, but like I would totally dig it. It doesn’t have to go into such detail, just a passin mention that YA characters do actually have bladders.
    I don’t really know how to answer this question, Mandy. Do I want realistic situations in my contemp books…yes, but I also want the ridiculous scenes that make me die of second hand embarrassment. This is hard!!! And I don’t know what to say!!! But this was a fabulous post!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I definitely see what you mean here a lot of YA contemporary seems to glaze over the unglamorous parts of life… periods are hardly ever mentioned neither is a bad hair day or skin day they all looks flawless from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to bed. I wouldn’t mind contemporary being a bit more realistic when it came to those things (I appreciate SJM series SO much more for mentioning things like periods because even if the world hangs in the balance a girl can’t work around that) but I guess it really just depends on my mood. Great discussion post Mandy 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’ve often asked this question myself! Do I want more mention of someone’s peeing and grooming habits for realism’s sake, or do I want to focus on the relevant stuff? To answer myself, I need a balance of both. I feel like books present these ideal human beings with perfect hair and gorgeous features, but then rarely show their human aspects. I enjoy reading about someone being in a funny situation where they forgot to brush their teeth, but then I don’t want the author describing extended scenes where characters are actually brushing teeth. If there’s a purpose behind these descriptions (like situational humor), I’m totally down for more realism! Otherwise, I’m good. 😛 Great discussion Mandy!

    Liked by 1 person

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