I’ve got a stack of YA books on the shelf next to my writing couch (Yes, I said “couch”…I like to be veeerrry comfortable when writing, and need to spread out. A chair just won’t do!) that I read when giving my wrists a break from typing on an ergonomically-challenged laptop for hours at a time. The “stack” consists of YA novels that have been given or recommended to me, and they’re all very different from what I write, in terms of style, subject matter, and themes. I find that reading during my writing breaks keeps me motivated…not sure if it’s the carrot of the whole entire published book, or if it’s just giving my mind a break from whatever I’m obsessing over in my own story. A lot of people tell me they cannot read anything else while crafting a book. But for me, it’s essential.
So, I’m staring at the “stack” today and realized that I’ve read little bits and pieces of each book, but never read just one consistently for too long, or even finished most of them! (It’s a LARGE stack, I tell you.) So, I thought long and hard about what my problem is and it hit me that the books all have something in common.
The “Ick” factor. Yes, I said “Ick.” As in, yuck. Sick. Gross. Disgusting. Repulsive. I don’t know what it is about the novels people are giving me lately, but they all deal with really sick topics. Like, hard to read topics. Now, I am not a prude. I can watch gross-out horror flicks, CSI, Fear Factor, bloody surgery shows with the best of ‘em. But, I’m talking about disturbing stuff. Stuff I wish I hadn’t read. Nauseating visuals I can’t get out of my head. Plots that are so far out there on the vile scale, I have to wonder who would actually read--and get pleasure--from them.
I have nothing against difficult and edgy topics. Give me suicide, death, destruction, drugs, guns, even a little homicide doesn’t bother me so much…I’ll take those any day. I’m talking more along the lines of violent abduction, child-rape, perverted sexual assault, twisted brainwashing…that kind of thing.
My question is this: Who is the audience? If we are writing for teens, should we be providing stories that are so perverted, so far out there, so disturbing, that they become afraid to leave their houses or ever make eye contact with a stranger? It’s one thing to write a story about, say, suicide, which in my opinion is something every single teen on the planet is somehow touched by. But some of these stories are about such random and rare issues, I just wonder exactly who is relating to them. Now, I realize we do not have to relate or see ourselves in every story we enjoy. But I’m telling you, I’ve got a stack of YA books that seem to lack any ente rtainment value at all. In fact, the only hook I can imagine is one of shock value. Although, I have to worry about the person who enjoys this kind of shock.
I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me. Or maybe not. My dear friend, Barbara, gave me an ARC, that is getting good reviews, recently and said, “I just want to see what you think.” When I asked what she thought of it, she said, “Oh! It made me barf!”
Guess what. I read it. And then I barfed.