Thursday, June 24, 2010

How dark can we go with young adult fiction?

I met with an editor recently and mentioned I have some violence in my YA manuscript. I asked if that's a problem, and she said, "Not at all." When I first tried breaking into fiction for adults, violence was an were love triangles and non-Hollywood endings. The freedom to be edgy and dark and imaginative is exhilarating.

I've read modern YA, and it's clear teens are eating up books that aren't sugar coated. Suzanne Collins's Hunger Games series has topped the bestseller lists with a plot that concerns a dystopian reality show in which kids hunt each other to the death. Harry Potter has a staggering body count by the seventh book, and the ending of Markus Zusak's YA bestseller, The Book Thief, is both violent and emotionally intense. I have no idea why I even asked that editor about the darkness of my own novel. Perhaps I'm worried the rules will suddenly change and YA authors will have to treat readers as delicately as the supposed audience of women's books.

My current favorite YA book cover is the one for Brenna Yovanoff's upcoming novel, The Replacement (see above).  On my Suburban Vampire blog I've mentioned how YA fiction gets the best covers, and this one's no exception.  Artistic.  Intriguing.  Deliciously dark.  Can you imagine a cover with scissors and knives dangling over a baby's pram showing up in the aisles of women's fiction?  That would be a no-no. . . yet so many grown women read YA fiction.  I'm guessing I'm not the only adult female who flinches at candy-colored covers and the gentle happily-ever-after tales we're told women want.  Grown-ups gobble up YA fiction alongside teens because YA writers are allowed more freedom with their tales.  Imaginations can soar.  I love that I discovered the pleasure of writing YA; I can let my mind be as creative as it wants to be.  That's why I fell in love with writing in the first place.


Ara Burklund said...

Agreed! I love how the "rules" aren't exactly the same in YA. So much more fun! : )

Cat Winters said...

Definitely more fun!