by Eric Devine
Writing should be more of a mirror to society than a portrait. I believe if we are writing well, then we are telling truths about what exists, not only how we want to see the world behave. These truths are often labeled dark or edgy or gritty, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with these adjectives. However, the problem arises when they become synonymous with controversial
.The term controversial
is a universal call for someone to get up in arms. And today, some people savor the whiff of controversy, so that they can use it as a platform to discuss their opinions, shoot others down in an online flame war, or even worse, twist the premise of the original controversy for personal gain.
And yet we wonder why authors tell stories about the darkness of humanity?
I am fortunate that I teach teenagers every day. Focusing on stories and structure and the power of words with adolescents reveals what every Young Adult author should know: they are real people with flaws.
Shocking, I know.
But considering how much adults talk about and write about and spend energy on keeping books with dark material away from teens, maybe it is. The premise of these well-intentioned adults is two-fold: 1. Teens don’t need to read about “this” (whatever inappropriate topic has been deemed such). 2. If they do, like those “gateway drugs”, they’ll learn things that will open doors down terrible paths.
And this is when I get irate.
Teens swear, make bad choices, get in fights, have sex, do drugs, and experience such inhumanity from one another, it makes my soul cringe. However, this has been the case since I was in high school, close to twenty years ago, and I doubt it’s a new development. The speed and intensity of ithas changed, via social media and technology. Yet, do you know where this, and the aforementioned issues are dealt with, where lessons are learned by characters, so that others may vicariously learn? You guessed it?
And if that source material, the handbooks for how-things-might-go-down, is shot through a rosy lens, what has been taught? That these events are fine. That doing these things is okay. That treating one another like dirt leaves you feeling awesome.
I understand the premise of the adults. I sincerely do. But they are wrong. I have never seen a child “break bad” because of a book he or she read. I have never heard a teen interviewed by an administrator for something heinous he or she has done and claim a book as the source of the idiocy.
It doesn’t happen.
Teens learn from one another, from the internet, from their parents, from their teachers––probably in this order. If a teen is reading books, hoping to find something to help navigate these rough waters, we should applaud them, give them a medal and then beg them to pass the stories on. Because many teens do not read. They spend extensive time watching Vines and YouTube videos and on Twitter and on Facebook. And they cut one another down from the safety of the keyboard, and unless no one or no story jars them from this, they grow into adults, who make decisions about content, hear the word controversial and fall into the loop society––not books––has created.
Want to see if I walk the walk? Check out either Tap Out or Dare Me.
Find fearless author Eric Devine online:
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Eric Devine Author Page, Facebook
TwitterBuy Eric’s books:
Dare Me, Tap Out, This Side of Normal: Amazon US, Amazon Canada: Dare Me, Tap Out, This Side of Normal; Barnes & Noble: Dare Me, Tap Out; IndieBound
“A boy who knows only grinding despair finds hope within the walls of a gym. . . . This is bound to have huge appeal.” School Library Journal Teen
“Devine instantly captures your attention and holds it until the very end. . . . The storyline, the drama and the characters were all thoroughly put together.” Publishers Weekly
“Devine doesn’t pull any punches.” http://foreveryoungadult.com/2013/10/09/whats-the-matter-mcfly-chicken/
Tap Out: a 2013 YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Readers AND a
2013 Top 10 Sports Book for Youth: Booklist