I am participating in a panel of YA authors to discuss the responsibility of the author in writing for the younger generation. The issue at hand is that YA authors fall into two different camps in reference to what impact their writing has on teens. Issues like bulimia, cutting, sex, and suicidal tendencies to name a few taboo items affect teen thoughts. Therefore, it is believe that authors should write about these topics responsibly.
NO VIOLENCE OR RESPONSIBLE VIOLENCE?
Well, some authors have written books that contain violence that includes hunting and killing other kids, like Hatchet or Lord of the Flies. Was it needed for the story? Well some people believe so.
I believe that in the world we live in (at least the one I grew up in) violence is real and active. Although, some people have never had it invade their personal space, most kids and adults have. Kids, in my opinion, are smart and intuitive to their environment. In most cases have heard news stories that confirm the violent nature of man, and they have become somewhat desensitized to it.
When I wrote my MG book Explorer X – Alpha my 8yr old and 12 yr old beta read it. They told me not to hold back. They wanted the details of the character’s struggles. When parents read Explorer X – Alpha, I got responses like, “All the kids do is fight. How come the kids couldn’t find another way to solve their problems? Why did the kids become so violent when they played the video game simulations?”
My answer to them was…did you ever see a kid play a video game? They have no inhibitions or sympathy for their opponents. Heck, my husband annihilates our kids when playing video games with them, and I feel like a lamb to slaughter when my 6 year old cons me into playing with him.
Alright, in writing my upper YA novel I struggled with how to write intimate scenes for the young main character. I personally don’t see the point in added sex if it doesn’t progress the story. Yet, when I was a kid, I remember reading stuff that wasn’t YA and I skimmed over the sex parts without embarrassment.
Let’s face it. Some kids are sexually active. Heck, their bodies are revved up on hormones that make them think about the opposite sex all the time. These are issues they don’t mind reading about. However, in a YA book my personal thoughts are – keep it tasteful.
NO TOUCHY SUBJECTS?
Some would ban subjects like suicide, cutting, and drugs. These are real issues that our kids deal with on a daily basis. It doesn’t matter if they are in the inner city or in the suburbs all of these things happen, and they probably know someone that is dealing with these issues.
Should a YA author romanticize these things. My opinion – they should not. But (yes there is a but) in cases where they want to show the perspective of a youth caught up with these activities in order to move the story forward then it makes sense.
For instance, a drug addict, is in love with their drug of choice. If you ask any of them they will talk like that drug is the better than sex or anything. Why do they do that? Well, because they are hooked on it. A writer would want to address this realistically.
I personally believe that YA authors should write about what kids are struggling with or dealing with. I don’t believe they should be responsible for the censor of books. A parent should censor what they want their kids to read. Also, let’s be honest – most parents don’t care what their kid is reading – just that their kid is reading.
Also, when I was a teen reader – I didn’t just read YA. I also read adult books. I would bet that most teens today do this also.
Lastly, the YA author isn’t the only one that reviews books for distribution. The process of writing a book, getting an agent, then a publisher, and lastly an editor vets the novel before it ever gets to the shelves.