Happy Monday, sweet readers!
(Just a reminder, I won't be replying to comments for a week or so at least. Check out my housekeeping note for more, if you want. I still love your comments, and especially YOU!)
Being a writer for Young Adults is an incredible privilege. The teen years are a time when many people fall in love with reading, and to write books that they might pick up and that might have a really big impact on them is SUCH an exciting endeavor.
I love teenagers. Half the people I work with are teenagers. I think they're awesome. I love talking with them. I love watching them learn to navigate new phases in life. I love that they're some of the most passionate people on the planet. I love their enthusiasm and the way they're sucking up learning like super-advanced sponges and thinking of new ways to use information.
In short: I think teenagers have a lot to teach us.
Just because "adults" have lived more years doesn't mean that we approach the world in a better way.
Problem is, a lot of conversation I see floating around the writers' community is what we need to teach them.
More accurately, the question of "Do we have a responsibility to write - or not write - a certain way for teenagers?"
Do we have a responsibility to only present healthy relationships as desirable?
Isn't it most responsible to be realistic about what balancing life in the real world is like?
Is it okay to write about sexual assault (or other potential triggers) in YA? If we do, must we write about it a certain way?
Shouldn't we put a warning on books containing homosexual content?
Is it okay write about teenagers having sex?
If it is, is there a certain way we should write about it?
Is that 'certain way' only if we're using it as an opportunity to educate about sex?
Don't we want to "protect" teenagers from "overt sexual references?"
Overall, is YA literature "too dark?" Shouldn't we try to curb that?
Now. Some of these posts open up great conversations, and others make me want to scream and throw things. (I'm sure you can guess which are which.)
But here's my answer to the question:
Do we as YA writers have a responsibility to write YA fiction in a certain way to communicate certain messages?
And here's why: Teenagers are people. They have brains.
They can use those brains to read stories and think about them critically.
They can talk about them with their friends, or their siblings, or their teachers, or maybe even their parents.
They have an inherent sense about what's okay and what's not okay FOR THEM.
We need to remember that writing is powerful, and it's a privilege, but it's not mind-control. You might think you're sending one message with your story, but anyone reading it might get something completely different from it.
You can't control that. You just can't.
(Now, whether or not your story will get you signed, or will get published, or whether people will like it or despise it is a completely different topic.)
But I will say this. No kid ever picked up recreational masturbation just because they read Catcher in the Rye.
Honestly, if I hear "teenagers are impressionable," "teenagers are emotional," "teenagers are self-centered," "teenagers are super-susceptible to peer pressure," "teenagers are flaky," or "teenagers are very body-conscious" one more time, I'm going to throw up. Because, yeah, they are. Except for the ones that aren't. Same goes for grownups. Same goes for EVERYONE, okay?
Enough with the generalizations.
Just write the story. Make it a great story, and write it beautifully.
Make no assumptions.
Teenagers can decide whether a book's for them, or whether they like the messages it sends, all on their own. Being above 20, or 25, or 30, does not imbue someone with some magical power that makes them capable of pontificating on what is or is not "okay."
Teenagers are people.
They have brains, and they can think for themselves.
If you can't accept that, and if you can't write books that acknowledge that, don't write YA.
Because the one way we should never, ever write Young Adult Fiction is disrespectfully.
What do you think, sweet readers of the writerly type? Do we have responsibilities to our Young Adult readers? And reader-types...what's your take?