Some YA thoughts

08Jun09

Check out this Wall Street Journal article on the trend to the dark in YA. If you’ve even strolled through a B&N or Borders you can see this move to the darker/edgier play out in the cover designs especially.

I’d point out particularly the last line referencing YA novels “which initially seem frolicky and fun but are actually creepy and morally bereft and leave you feeling utterly hopeless” as a particular pet peeve of mine. I love a fun read but do also feel, as many of the authors interviewed in the article express, that YA authors especially have a certain calling to present a world where a moral code, any moral code (even if in the course of the action it’s violated) exists.  Amorality is a bigger qualm for me than immorality–one is a choice, the other is unrealistic.

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5 Responses to “Some YA thoughts”

  1. 1 Jessica M. Lavallee

    As a parent and a writer of YA I feel there is a responsibility for authors to deliver truth while being especially aware of the fragility of their targeted audiance. Times have changed and the young people of today are faced with violence in the schoolyard as well as in media, and with pressures that result from these and others. When I write I do so with a hope of reaching the realities of my readers while handing out strength rather than depression. We cannot pretend our teens are not effected by video games, bullying, or even by the loom of the recession we all face. These are dark times, but there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Through our writing we have to address the difficulties of our young readers, but with an ambition to ease their worries and lighten their loads in a believable, realistic manner… but we must be adult about it, and remain tastefully cautious. The category is titled Young Adult, but the fact is, these readers are children.

  2. 2 Ames

    And I know the “rash” of dark YA has been going on for a while…I read it; I love it; therefore I am!….but I hate how some journalists make it sound like those books just POPPED UP out of nowhere and bit a bunch of folks on the rear until they got bought and spit out on bookshelves lickety-split!

    Like “OMGWOW! Look at all those sad stories full of hopelessness being published during this recession,” when the truth is most were bought a year or two ago *sigh*

    Sorry

    /end pet peeve

  3. 3 d-day

    Just a quick prop, I come from grinder publishing, newspapers and mags…

    I’ve only recently started to read the agent blogs, and this one is by far the best. It’s got real information. It’s not just a set of rules that paralyzes new writers. And it’s optimistic.

    That kind of attitude tells more about the agency than someone who seems to just like ringing their own bell or building their own groupie zone.

  4. 4 Anica

    I wonder whether people who take issue with dark YA might start leaning more toward middle-grade work. Obviously, MG is not “YA without the dark,” but its target audience is similar, and it does tend to be a bit less dark.

    Actually, I am curious: When you comment on the flooded YA market, are you including MG/older children’s books, or strictly YA/teen books? (Hopefully these are acceptable groupings. My impression is that “middle-grade” is a sort of older-children, 9-14 target audience, while “young adult” is more 14-19, and pretty synonymous with “teen.”)

  5. 5 Kat

    I think dark YA fiction is popular because of the stage of life for the target audience. Teens are often moody and struggling through their feelings as hormones rage inside them. They can identify with the torment and tumultuous emotions inside the characters of the novel. But just because it’s labeled “dark” doesn’t mean that it must be amoral or even immoral. Examples of “dark” YA novels with good messages would be the works of Cassandra Clare, Scott Westerfeld, and Stephenie Meyer. The same trends can be found in older books, including classic literature. Writers like Thomas Hardy, Edgar Allan Poe, the Bronte sisters, and George Orwell all had a dark hue to their works, but they still retained a sense of right and wrong. Of course, society has nearly stripped our culture of a moral compass, I must say; and our literature is acting more like a thermometer than a thermostat – mirroring the temperature instead of changing it.

    As far as paranomral romance (which has become popular in recent years) is concerned, I think it’s not anything new. It’s just rehashing the old idea of a “good girl” falling for the “bad boy” or vice versa. Edward Cullen is just James Dean reincarnated. So I have to agree that none of this is exactly new, but it certainly is a trend.


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