Use SomebodyToday's Tune:
I don't really keep this a secret, but in case you weren't aware: I watch YA discussions pretty closely. Mostly because I'm intensely interested in the genre, but also because I write it, and keeping an ear to the ground on your potential future career is generally considered an intelligent thing to do.
There's something I've seen come up in discussions from agents and editors pretty regularly, and I thought I'd bring it to the table.
Here it is: the Juno-esque sarcastic teen girl voice is getting way old. Some feel the voice is just too common -- it seems aspiring YA writers tend to fall back on it as the "expected" voice for a teenage character. Others feel it's an unrealistic voice. Yes, teens can be sarcastic, but the cynical, lightning-quick quips sound scripted, not real. They're more jaded 20-something and less teenager.
Okay, so, yikes. What does this mean for YA writers? Do we need to reel in the sarcasm and make sure our characters don't sound like we pulled them out of the Dawson's Creek pilot? (Aside: seriously NO ONE TALKS LIKE THIIIIIISSS but I still totally loved that show, not going to lie.) Does this mean we have to nix witty dialogue? ALL THE SADFACES.
My take: yes and no. Yes, I think there is definitely a valid point in the opinion that the Juno-style is overdone and trying too hard. Part of the teenage experience is that they can't always think of the scathing quip at just the right moment, even if they'd like to. And the appreciation of sarcasm and dry wit does have a limit. If we're too heavy-handed with it, it grates.
But does this mean no sarcasm or wittiness at all? I definitely wouldn't take it to that extreme. We just have to learn 1.) moderation and 2.) how to explore different voices. Every teen character doesn't need to be a whipcrack smartass who views everything through the I Am So Worldly And Jaded At Sixteen filter. The issue with this voice is that it's just too cool. It's almost a throwback to not making your character perfect: don't make them the perfectly confident superior kid who has a comeback for everything.
Let them stumble. Let them get embarrassed and stressed and pissed off and tongue-tied and awkward. Don't try to make them into a polished, witty adult-in-a-teen-body. Doing so causes you to miss out on one of the core tenants of teenagerdom: we had no idea what the hell we were doing. Talking back and being a smartass were defense mechanisms, not our core personality.
Characters, not caricatures. Something we'd all do well to keep in mind.