Monday, November 17, 2008

I’m Buggin’

So, I provided that great link to Courtney Summer's post, in which she debunked several myths about writing YA. The comments have taken an interesting turn, and I really just need to vent for a moment.

When I first started BTPM, I have to admit that I was a little…rusty when it came to young adult novels. Mostly, I moved forward by following my gut and relying on what dim recollections I had of the YA's I read as a teen. It probably wasn't until 3-4 months later that I really started diving into reading many, many YA's. (I have to say, I became a bit hooked! LOL. I probably buy YA's 2 to 1 over adult novels. The stacks I have waiting to be read are out of control.)

Along the way, I discovered tons of great authors, many of whom really push the boundaries of what some people perceive as "acceptable" reading material for teens. They cover a great range of topics—from incest, sexual/physical abuse, rape, sex in general, cutting, eating disorders, to racism and peer pressure—the list goes on. And I have to tell you, they didn't cut corners. If their stories called for harsh language or explicit details, they went for it. They didn't bow down to "convention" that says you can't use the word Fuck in a young adult novel, and they didn't shy away from writing about topics that a lot of freaked out parents would like to sweep under the carpet.

Psst! *waves you over* Did you know that if you don't write about sex, teens won't have it?! I'm totally serious.

I mean…COME ON, PEOPLE. Pull your heads out of the sand.

And whatever some people might think, I am NOT endorsing going hog wild and writing the next hardcore porn for teens. What I am endorsing are books that provide teenagers with a realistic view of the world. If you're going to go there, let your story dictate what devices you need to employ in order to tell it. The reality of life is this: teenagers have sex. They use drugs, they deal with tough issues that come along and smack them in the faces. It isn't all rainbows and unicorns. (And no, I'm in no way trying to discount stories that involve a touch of fairy dust and magic. I write about werewolves for pete's sake.) All I'm saying is that teens are a lot sharper than we give them credit for. And in this world, the more knowledge they have, the better prepared they will be to make the right choices for themselves when—NOT IF—they face one of the aforementioned situations.

Since I wrote BTPM, the YA projects I've contemplated and/or started have gotten darker. The latest, STOLEN is extremely dark, and I just can't shy away from writing it. I think it's an important book. I really hope others see the merit in it, even if it includes things none of us really want to think about.

Books do not endorse a way of life. They portray one. And unless we want to completely do a disservice to teens around the world, we have to trust that they're more than just mere automatons that become what they read.

Good grief.

*steps off her soapbox*


Tara Parker said...


I agree with you completely.

I didn't finish reading all the comments yesterday, so I'll have to go back through them again.

Kait Nolan said...

I didn't actually bother to read the comments (as I feared it would devolve in one of those internet "discussions" that are nothing but a big time suck with people being asshats.

But I have to agree with Tara. All claps here. I think YA these days is FINALLY catching up to teens as readers. I know I hated the YA that was out when I was that age because I felt like it pandered and talked down and completely insulted me as a person. The fact of the matter is that the world can be really tough for teens and if we don't address that in a realistic fashion in our work, it's doing them a disservice.

K. Arana, proprietress, chp said...

As someone who had a very dark and questionable YA life, I agree.

The books I read, amongst others when I was a teen were along the lines of _Go Ask Alice_, or these odd books about runaways and how they survived. Because they were real, and I could relate.

So, yeah. Word!

Kimberely (who must get herself a writing blog, pronto!)

Jennifer Hendren said...

WOO-WOO -- ya'll rock!!