What draws you to YA literature?

| Monday, June 6, 2011
Today's Tune: A Lonely Decision

Okay, so, if you are in the YA community and were on the Internet at all this weekend, I am absolutely positive you heard about the big "Wall Street Journal on Darkness in YA" debacle. Someone wrote a misinformed article about why dark themes are featured in YA, a bunch of YA writers/editors/publishers/agents caught wind of it, and a giant outpouring of awesome occurred on Twitter under the hashtag #YAsaves. There was also this rebuttal and this rebuttal and many, many other rebuttals and blog posts and comments.

I don't really have much to say on this topic that hasn't already been said a dozen times over, but I still wanted to acknowledge the attitude and the incredible response. So I'll just say this one thing: Joy and beauty are not mutually exclusive from darkness. Writing and publishing "dark" novels for teenagers is not and never has been about "immersing them in ugliness." It's about helping them break through it. If anyone honestly believes that even "innocent" teenagers do not suffer dark feelings occasionally, then they do not remember what it was like to be a teenager. That's all.

I feel like I should segue into why I write YA literature, though I'm pretty sure I've written extensively about it before. My reasoning can pretty much be summed up thusly: I am fascinated by the psychological and archetypal journey of adolescence. The path YA characters take to become the person they're meant to be is incredible to me. I love this cross-section of stories, and I foresee myself writing them for a long, long time.

Funnily enough, I never considered my YA writing particularly dark. Sure, there's some murder and a bit of blood and some drug use and some tormented emotion, but I never sat down and thought I'm going to write a really dark story. It still surprises me when people read my stuff and go, "Wow, I can't believe this came out of you. It's so dark. And you're... not dark." I always think, really? This is just what came out. I didn't mean for it to be a BIG, DARK DEAL. Also, just because I don't look or sound or act like a person with darkness inside them doesn't mean it's not there. It's always such a fascinating reaction to me.

My work is directly pulled from my teen life. I mean, no, my father was never murdered by a secret order of scientist-kidnapping immortals. But the emotions my characters feel, the feelings of loss and anger and loneliness and rejection? Those are the things I remember from my "nice, easy" teen life. And these are the stories that come out of me, and that resonate with me. That's why I write them the way I do.

What about you, readers? If you read or write YA, what draws you to it? What sort of stories resonate with you?


{ jjdebenedictis } at: June 6, 2011 at 10:27 AM said...

Yeah, I'm often a bit startled at how dark some of the things that come out of my head are. I don't think of myself that way; I don't think others see me that way.

That said, fiction needs conflict, and conflict causes most of us to go into a dark place, mentally.

{ Callie Kingston } at: June 6, 2011 at 8:17 PM said...

Yes, the psychological journey of adolescence is a huge draw. As a school psychologist who's counseled teens, a mother of teens, and a former teen, I can think of no stage of life more ripe with future paths and mired in present drama.

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