So, then Where is the Line?

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bannedbooksA lot of people had a lot to say about my previous post on YA Author responsibility, and I was reminded in the comments section about a current author, Ellen Hopkins, who has been asked NOT to come talk at a school, and all her books have been pulled from the library shelves.

Ellen Hopkins writes gritty, serious, great stuff. But, her characters suffer the consequences. Not all the characters all of the time, but there are obvious consequences to things we as a society have deemed inappropriate. She does it in a way that isn’t preaching to kids, but shows them a path they they should avoid, or if they are already on it–maybe some hope or a way out.

Now, I am not comparing my book to hers, other than being directed at a young adult audience, there really aren’t a lot of similarities between the two. But, it does make you think. There are books out there designed to teach consequences to bad choices, and even those are being banned from the shelves. What happens to the books that just mention it casually?

Another author I’m reminded of is Maureen Johnson. She wrote a book about a two girls falling in love and how their other close friend dealt with it. She ended up with a crazy lady in a pink jacket chatting it up on the news working her damndest to get her books in the adult section, or just kicked out of the library completely. Which brings up a completely different point–who are WE as YA Authors to decide what is and isn’t worthy of consequences? Do we draw the line at things that are illegal like teenage drinking? What about things that are potentially dangerous like texting while driving? Or is the line one of our own moral compass, and should we not talk about lesbian relationships or sex before marriage without having real consequences like being shunned by our parents or teenage pregnancy?

So, I pose a new question to you, the readers of my blog: Where is the line, and what actions deserve to have unfortunate consequences attached tot hem?

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  1. In this day and age, there should be no “lines”. I am vehemently apposed to lines, of all kinds.

    In our society today, which is allegedly multicultural and multifaceted and multiwheteverelseyoucanthinkof, there are no lines. No boundaries. Girls have sex with girls, guys have sex with guys, mixed-race couples, etc, etc. I’m totally open to anything and anyone, without prejudice. Most teenagers (I say ‘most’ because not everyone is as openminded as I am, I know) are also fairly open minded.

    In fact, I would even go so far as to say that a lot of kids these days know more about the ways of the modern world than we do, and definitely more than we give them credit for.

    We as writers, whether it be YA, or even ‘adult’ (cos kids read adult fiction too y’know) need to be aware of this, and write what our readers are wanting to read.

    As for idiots who decide to try and ban authors and their books, they are only representing their own, narrow minded view, not that of anyone else.
    .-= Andy Walker´s last blog ..Days of silence =-.

  2. Yeah, I don’t believe in lines.


    There is no one standard for art.

  3. The line has been, and always will be, a moving target subject to the whims of society.

  4. Good post, Jamie. Very thoughtful.

    For me, there is not a solid line. What consequences are shown in my writing varies from book to book and character to character. Using the teen drinking one, since it seems to come up often: in one book, my MCs can go to a party, drink a little, and have seemingly no consequences. In another, the MCs might drink, then get in trouble with parents and/or the law. In yet another, underage drinking might lead to a nasty hangover.

    The consequences shown are those that stay true to the story. The same variance is there for any action, not just underage drinking. Just as every person is different, so is every story and every character. Because of this, consequences shown (or not shown, as it may be) are different as well.

    I agree wholeheartedly with the need to show consequences to actions, as long as they help propel the story line. That is part of developing a real story. What I don’t agree with is showing consequences in order to teach a lesson to my readers. Our novels should not be an outlet for us to preach our moral code to others.
    .-= Rachel Bateman´s last blog ..What are the responsibilities of a YA author? =-.

  5. Maybe I’m just a bad, bad person, but I don’t think there is a line to be drawn for the genre as a whole. I think each author and each story has to draw their own line.

    One of the things I love about YA is the wide range that authors have in dealing with issues, from the gloss over to the deep dark consequences. All of those things have a place (assuming they fit the story and don’t come across as just being preachy because I’ve yet to meet a teen who likes “lessons” thrown into their books) and a readership looking for them.

    Where do I draw the line? I’m not sure. On my old draft, I really watched the language my teens used. Then I realized how unrealistic it was for NONE of them to have potty mouths, and even worse for none of them to cuss at all. So, I shifted things to be more real. I still haven’t used any really choice words, but I won’t say never either. My characters haven’t dealt with sex, but in large part that’s because it doesn’t fit the story. Same with drinking, my girls are too busy to party. There ARE (at least in the second book) some relationships that will probably provoke some raised eyebrows, but I refuse to change that to appease people. It fits the story and the characters. They win over what some unknown potential reader (and likely adult reader) will think.

    I had to check, but our local library has the Johnson title in question (not sure about the high school, but the public library does). There are areas that will ban books based on anything and everything. If we use book banning as a guideline for what to write, a lot of kids aren’t going to have much they enjoy reading.

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