This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
When I was a teenager (not so long ago!) I loved Point Horror and Point Crime novels with a bit of Nancy Drew (remember her?) and Sweet Valley High thrown in. There was crime and intrigue, sure, but it was fun and exciting, not filled with gore or the stuff of nightmares.
Nowadays, Young Adult fiction has grown to deal with far more serious and complex themes ranging from terminal illness (Before I Die) to murder (Harry Potter, Hunger Games). But are our teenagers being led by these books or simply being given an outlet to discuss what was already happening in their lives?
I read an article recently about a new type of book dubbed 'sick-lit' – which looks set to take over the vampire/werewolf phenomenon within Young Adult fiction. This article (I won't bore you with the link – it was as one-sided and biased as you might expect from such a publication) basically went on to highlight the horrors these books are pushing on the youth of today. Apparently these books are making teenagers self-harm because they glamorise the darker elements of their lives.
There is certainly truth in the fact that these authors have a massive responsibility while writing about these sensitive subjects. Teenagers are arguably more impressionable and more susceptible to new ways of thinking. They are not, however, stupid. Patronising them or sugar coating the realities of life will do them no favours. They are, after all, young adults.
I’ve been incredibly impressed in recent years with some powerful YA fiction that touched on very real issues like abuse, the perils of meeting people online and disability. Authors like Gina Blaxill and Louisa Reid took on these topics bravely but with an understanding of their target audience. There was nothing patronising or dumbed down about their books but the topics weren't sensationalised. Some of the biggest YA books of the last decade (Harry Potter, Hunger Games) had death, murder and very real villains. Though not specifically aimed at teenagers, other authors like Jodi Picoult are known for discussing taboo subjects and looking at all perspectives – including the younger ones!
Of course this article did get something almost right. It said that parents should pay close attention to what their children are reading. Though I doubt giving them the Spanish Inquisition will help matters much, it is always a good idea to express an interest. The very best and bravest of books will make the reader want to ask questions. Just make sure somebody is there to answer them.
Are there topics you feel should be left out of YA fiction? How much violence or adult context or language is appropriate? Let us know in the comments.