I recently read a couple of on-line articles about the darker turn in YA fiction. While both acknowledged fun and cute aren’t entirely off the shelves, they’re not as common. Remember the First Harry Potter? The Last? Big difference. I loved them all. I do admit I miss some of the light-heartedness in the first book. It was such fun! Who didn’t wish they could be a kid at Hogwarts? Rowling did an outstanding job with that.
But today, it’s the darker the better, or so it seems. I have to say, some are darker than others. Some even made me question if parents might think a line has been crossed and the work too graphic, too dark. While I’m not ready to say THE EXORCIST is YA by today’s standard’s, I think it’s getting closer all the time. And yeah, I read The Exorcist when I was in the earliest of my teen years along with King, Barker, and Koontz. My parents never said a word. Well, except with The Exorcist. I had the heebie-jeebies for months.
The topics I’ve read over the year? Well, murder isn’t new. Neither are tattoos, drug use, underage drinking, fighting, and sex. In the past, sex was sort of implied and lightly glossed over, but now it’s becoming slightly more explicit. Suicide, rape, and disfigurement are more topics becoming more common. Swearing is almost commonplace. It’s like the lines are blurred between adult and young adult fiction these days. The only difference in some is simply the age of the protagonist.
Happily ever after days are long gone. Everything seems to have a distinct dystopian feel to it, some a lot more than others. Endings are more ‘somewhat happily ever after’ or downright dismal.
I’d like to know your thoughts. Are there still topics which you feel shouldn’t cross into YA? For sex, murder, and suicide, how graphic is too much? Do you prefer darker or lighter fiction? Happy endings or dystopian endings? A totally apocalyptic world or more modern day?
I’ve got a light and humorous YA out with a few agents right now. It’s pure fun and story. I’m also editing a very dark YA that makes me wonder if I’m pushing ‘edgy’ right off the cliff straight from page one. While I love them both and certainly hope they make it onto bookshelves on day, I have to wonder what everyone else is reading, and what they’d like to read that they don’t feel is marketed enough.