Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Writing Wednesday: Darkness and Hope in Young Adult novels
And was told that my MG/YA stories were just too dark.
Then along came Twilight.
And Hunger Games.
And publishers realized that yes, teens read dark, apocalyptic stuff too. Like they didn't know teens in the 70s and 80s were the ones gobbling up Stephen King and V.C. Andrews. Like Catcher in the Rye and Lord of the Flies and The Outsiders were as happy and sunshine-y as Anne of Green Gables.
Some of these books are obviously darker than others. But there are threads through each that appeal to teens and adults alike. Ordinary people battling against the darkness. The idea of not giving up. Of holding onto hope in the darkness.
Watching the news these days, we need more of that. More threads of hope to hold onto.
But I'm going to repeat, this isn't new. Holden Caufield may have been battling inner demons instead of vampires or aliens, but he had to battle his way out of the darkness and back to the light. Pony Boy fought against the same class-ism that still exists today all over our country and our world between the rich and the poor. The haves and the have-nots.
Today's teens may feel even less in control of the world than teens of the 60s, 70s and 80s, so the stakes in current YA have been raised. I just re-read a marvelous trilogy retelling of the Robin Hood tale by A.C. Gaughen, who I met last summer on a book panel. She writes a strong female narrator who's forced to masquerade as a boy for a lot of the series. It starts with SCARLET. Talk about having no control of your world or destiny - England in the 1100 and 1200s was not a place to be poor. And yet the characters held onto that thread of hope throughout.
As YA authors, we have a duty to be authentic, but to also offer that thread of hope. To give examples of how yes, bad things happen, but good can persevere. That evil men may claim power and positions of authority, but the people can - and should - resist. Fight back. Stay true to what they believe.
I don't think it's the darkness that's too dark. I think it's the light that needs to shine more brightly.
Now, whether you write YA or not, tell us one of your favorite books you read as a teen. And why.