If you read my reviews, you’ve probably noticed that I don’t read many YA books set in high schools. And the reason I am so hesitant to read them anymore is because I can’t stand all the typical high school tropes. And it’s not just books that do this, it’s movies and shows too.
I’ve joked before about how I must’ve had a different high school experience than most authors, but it has reached the point in which I am legitimately, seriously wondering if maybe I actually did have a different high school experience than most people. Do books, movies, and TV shows keep portraying high school this way because that’s what it’s actually like? Did school just used to be really different and since writers are often older than I am, they’re simply portraying it the way it was in the past? Or are these tropes just completely incorrect things that have come to be the standard for writing?
So here I am, bringing my question to you all! I’m going to figure out once and for all whether or not it’s me or the books who’s got this all wrong, and you’re going to help me ;-)
The Mean Girl
Let me preface this by saying I went to a public high school with roughly 3500 students. I did not know every single student. People walked at my graduation who I had literally never even seen before despite the fact that I apparently went to the same school as them for four years. But there was definitely no specific mean girl or head bitch who roamed the halls terrorizing people. Some people could just be kind of mean or petty sometimes, and no I didn’t always get along with every single person, but that’s just how things are in life in general. There was definitely no one “mean girl.”
My school had cliques, but they were never a big deal. No one was ever shunned if they were part of a different clique, and we didn’t completely separate ourselves. Sure, people in the same cliques hung out more with each other, but everyone still intermingled. I had friends who were in band, who were cheerleaders, who were in different types of dance clubs at the school, who were in honors and AP classes, who were in regular classes, who were in drama (both performers and backstage people), who were in different religious groups, etc. At lunch every year I ate with a different group of friends, and each year my group had a mixture of people from numerous different cliques, and we all got along and had lots of fun together. And the main clique that I was a part of, we were actually just a giant amalgamation that consisted of people from every other clique in the school, and that was actually one of the things I loved most about it, the way we all came together without judgment and accepted everyone.
Smart = Nerdy & Uncool
Media is always portraying the smart people as being super nerdy, having beyond no sense of fashion (and I mean, like, to the extreme), not having any social skills, never doing anything in life except studying, etc. And if you are like that, then cool, that’s fine. But just because someone is smart, that doesn’t mean they’re not also athletic, attractive, creative, fashionable, outgoing, sociable, and/or fun. And being smart, getting good grades, and being in honors/AP was never considered an uncool thing at my school, or at least not in the classes that I was in.
Not only that, I was most definitely a bookworm in high school. I always had a book with me and I carried it in my hands between classes so that I could keep reading right up until the bell rang or have it out if I needed to wait outside the door for the teacher. My friends would mess with me if I was reading the same book for more than a week since they knew I went through books quickly… but I was never actually teased about it in a mean way.
So… Is It Just Me?
I honestly don’t know. I’m not trying to say my school was perfect. And my personal experiences there weren’t perfect either. I mean, it’s high school. Sometimes friends/guys/girls/boyfriends/girlfriends/friends-of-friends/classmates/random people betray you or hurt you or judge you or make fun of you. It happens. But all in all, I had a great time in high school, and it really wasn’t anything like the stereotypical tropes I see in many books.