Monday, September 21, 2009: Guest blogger: Lara Stauffer

As I’m winging my way back to the US today, my dear friend and wonderful writer Lara shares some thoughts about the need for upbeat YA fiction.

Some people think it should ONLY be, well, bland. Some people think it should ONLY reflect angst.

I think it’s really important for YA fiction to cover the wide spectrum, because teenage emotions cover it. There’s a need to deal with real issues, even the tough ones, that teens face.

There’s also a need for escapism and joy and outcomes where Good wins.

And Lara articulates it better than I ever could:

A Little Levity, Please…
by Lara Stauffer

You remember being a teenager, don’t you? I know, it’s “been a while.” It’s been a while for me, too. But I remember being bogged down with schoolwork, experiencing “friend drama” (as most teens do) participating in extracurricular activities, etc. etc. etc.

And what was my escape from the craziness of my angst-filled teen years?

A good read. I loved getting lost in a good book. The Sweet Valley High series was a favorite. Or the whimsical “Secret Garden.” And who can forget the “Choose Your Own Adventure” Series? Or Trixie Belden? Little House on the Prairie Books, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory—the list goes on. All whimsical, light, magical, romantic. All good escape reading.

Cut to today, and what are teens calling those books?

Corny.

And what is the average teen reading for escape value?

Books about vampires. Books about abused teens finding other abused teens to commiserate with. Books about suicide and death, and teen pregnancy. Books that are dark, gritty, and “edgy.”

This is escape reading? Just scanning the synopses of the books in the YA section of any bookstore gives me chills. For example, why would someone consider the gritty tale of a homeless kid, fending for themselves on the streets and abusing drugs an escape read?

Call me old fashioned, but I think today’s YA books are too dark, too violent, too gory, too sexy. Kids are forced to grow up quickly enough as it is. Their lives are chaotic, fast-moving and pressure-laden. The teenage years are depressing enough, we don’t need depressing books on top of everything else.

I am left wondering: when did “happy books” become gauche? The books that made you smile, or laugh, or sigh in contentment? Case in point, I had a friend critique a query of mine, where I gave a teaser on my fairy story. Her critique was that my query made the story sound too “light” and I needed to add in the fact that the Fairies drank blood, so it would seem “darker and edgier” for potential agents. Because “darker and edgier” is in right now. I was surprised, but she was right.

This too, shall pass. I have faith. One day, the “Brady Bunch” endings won’t be scoffed at. Mirth and Light will be back. Teens will return to escape reading that truly gives one an “escape” from the doldrums of Life.

But I’m not holding my breath.

Lara Stauffer is a stay-home mom of four, who writes happy YA and Middle Grade Fiction. You can read Lara’s daily ramblings on her blogs, “Ramblings Of A Suburban Soccer Mom” and “The Potted Pen.”

Published in: on September 21, 2009 at 1:27 am  Comments (7)  
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