Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Issues in YA and Middle Grade Fiction

God, that title is so boring, don't you think? Lacks pizazz, really.

Any who, like the title said, this is about issues unique to a YA (and middle grade) target audience. Most of them are really obvious, but adults can sometimes lose a bit of that connection to the hardships of those years, only looking back on the good times. But I'll tell you this much—there were hard times throughout those years for everyone. I'll be trying to only put up issues that cross genres, but no promises about that.

~Dating: Doesn't that make you cringe? Just hearing that word rockets me back to memories of awkward set-ups, hallway liaisons, and cheating weasels without the cojones to break up with you in person...not fun. In most YA and some upper middle grade books, dating, attraction, et cetera all play a role as at least a minor plot, often the major plot. But, to make it believable, you should have floundering characters, flakes, bad blind dates, and meddling friends—and pain. Lots of pain, little bit of pain, but love hurts. There's a whole song about it, actually.

~Drugs/Alcohol: You know what? Even in a generally peaceful, sort of semi-utopian fantasy/sci-fi world, there are still going to be people who think life sucks, and there are still going to be kids and teens who think they should drink and shoot up. That leads to sharing, which leads to a certain level of moral dilemma. At least once for most of us, the opportunity arose to drink/smoke/what have you—it doesn't matter if it's weed or sensa-sticks, vodka or cryowhiskey—it sort of happens, sorry to say.

~Sex: I've posted about this before, but it does stand repeating. Teens are hormonal creatures in their sexual prime and, if they're anything like I was in middle and high school, extremely slutty. The decision to have sex or not have it, who to have it with, even where to have it are important at that age—and there's pressure pushing them both ways, most of the time. Peers are trying to make them have sex, but other authority figures are likely telling them to stay away—we've all been there, right? It's a real issue for that age group.

~Bullying: I'd like to see more of this addressed in YA and middle grade fiction, since someone needs to bring it to public attention. Bullying is pretty severe—it leads kids to drop out, causes depression, leads to suicide, and breeds further bullying—but everyone tries to push it under the rug. When it does get shown, it's always something like 'Carrie' or whatever his name was from 'Degrassi.' They are real issues and based on real events, but they always make the bullied party look like the bad guy. In fact, one of the best examples of bullying where the bullies are actually portrayed in a negative light is in 'George Lopez', when the whole school turns against Carmen and forces her to drop out or be tormented for four more years—sitcoms do it better than books, for some reason.

There are obviously more that may or may not cross all genres—grades, parental issues, suicide, ascending the throne—but those, I think, are the big four.



C.M.Brown said...

Some good pointers in your post.


Aurora Celeste said...

I like how you mention that even futuristic societies will have elements of these problems. It's good for fantasy and sci-fi to have a grounding in today's realism, it makes them seem more plausible.

Aurora Celeste

Erin M. Hartshorn said...

Bullying really is a big issue, and I'm trying to make sure I include it in the MG series I'm working on. Thanks for another good post.


Kaye Draper said...

Totally agree :)