It isn't that I believe sex and violence should be excluded from YA fiction, just that there should be a purpose to it other than titillation. Sex and violence do not need to be treated casually as the main draw of the book, do they?
What do I think should be included in YA and Juvenile books?
- Good characterization and dialogue. Skimpy novels that rely on a stereotypical version of someone else's characters just to get published do readers an injustice. Recently, the dialogue in several YA novels has left me pondering where the authors live, if they have any contact with adolescents, what kind of conversations the authors themselves indulge in. Characters in YA novels often sound so...hollow.
- Plots that are intriguing and require some thought. Yes, even young children can appreciate a well-considered plot with plenty of detail.
- The inclusion of good vocabulary, allusions, history, or current events that encourage young readers to do some research of their own volition.
- Strong supporting characters, often adults but not always, that provide guidance, consolation, comfort, and inspiration. Although there are negative characters in life and literature, there are also people we can depend on to do their best, even if they are not always successful.
- A sense of values. Integrity, responsibility, trustworthiness, etc. Not in a pedantic way, but proof that, although characters can make mistakes and bad decisions, they can improve, solve problems, overcome circumstances. There are consequences to negative actions, but there are also ways in which we can improve our situations and become better individuals, both in fiction and in life.
What would I like to see less of in YA novels?
- Emphasis on appearances (full lips, great pecs--so overdone is so many YA novels)
- Sex. Does not need to be overemphasized or detailed. Plot and characterization should always take precedence. A personal preference, perhaps, but I don't like gratuitous sex in any novels.
- Insta-love. What a great lesson to teach young people. Not. Especially since most insta-love is based on appearance. Attraction is one thing, but love requires something more than appearance and hormones.
In all fiction, I tend to be drawn to mystery, fantasy, and science fiction. Good old entertainment and escape novels. They don't have to be worthy of being classified as great literature; they just have to be good entertainment.
The above is from a draft I wrote in February, but after my last review, Melody made a comment about that sent me searching for this draft."Generally, I often find myself in a dilemma reading a YA with dark and violent elements. They may be intriguing, but I'm not sure if those might have some impact on the YA readers, given some school violence we've seen today. I just hope that the readers would be mature enough to distinguish the difference between fiction and reality."
Thanks, Melody, for reminding me that this is a subject that interests me. I read a all kinds of fiction--including children's and YA novels. Some are excellent for readers of any age, but some are disappointing (at least to me) in what they offer young readers.
Those of you who love and read YA fiction, what do you look for in this broad category? Do you prefer certain genres?