Saturday 22 August 2015

Young adult fiction is not all about sex!

Dancing on the inside...
Firstly a bit of an explanation, I have been seriously amiss with my blog, for which apologise, but there has been a good reason. I am frantically writing a book for Palgrave on writing young adult fiction at the moment, and I am afraid that has been my focus for my precious words rather than this.

But I couldn't not blog about this  because recently I became really angry when I saw an article in the New York Daily News regarding writing young adult fiction  (don't worry the link I have used will ensure that it shows no traffic to the site because I don't believe they deserve it). I did decide to calm down before I wrote the post otherwise it would have just been a tirade of abuse. It included interviews with an agent suggesting that all young adult fiction should have threesomes and sex. There were potentially some valid and useful points if used correctly. However it showed a scant understanding of either young adults or the genre. Instead they were peddling these 'truths' to any writer desperate to know what do in order to write a 'best selling' young adult fiction. While jumping on a band wagon and going for shock value. Nothing better for a headline grabber than a bit of teenage sex no doubt.

Very rapidly the wonderful Christina Li penned a truly eloquent response. Christina is a young adult and a writer therefore a member of the target audience in both aspects. She highlights something that I have been concerned about recently. The idea that young adult fiction has been appropriated. We need to return it to its rightful owner - the teen audience. This is not the first time I have heard about teenagers being made to feel uncomfortable. Step back adults these are not our books. Young adult fiction is written for teens. Just because adults are reading it does not mean the way it should be written or marketed should be changed. (Note the writers I know have not done any of this I am just sounding a warning bell). As Christina highlights we should be listening to the right audience as should the publishers.

Young adult fiction has always been a place to take risks and push the boundaries. However, I do have concern though that since it has become such a cash cow for publishers they are less likely to take these risks and might rather stay in their comfort zone/be formulaic. Young adult fiction has a responsibility because not only is it about great stories but it is a place for the target audience to escape where teens can explore and play with their identity in safety, asking questions of themselves and the text. Working out who they are and just as importantly who they are not. Publishers must not lose sight of that. We, as writers, must remain focused on our audience and listen to what they have to say, so the likes of Christina don't feel left out. I know the majority of writers that I know do that already but when advice like the article mentioned previously are being put out there saying that all books need sex in them, we need to keep shouting because we all know that's not true. Some stories might, other stories don't. Stories need to reflect all sorts of teen concerns as suggested by Christina that fit with the narrative and are not contrived. Write the story you want to write, tell the tale that is dancing on the inside...

Jonas & Jane Whispered