Thursday, November 26, 2015

The YA Stigma

Scott Bergstrom has a great book deal. Good for him. There is always a rush of excitement when an author does well. But in this case, everyone is upset over certain comments from a Publishers Weekly article. 

The comment is this: “The morality of the book is more complicated than a lot of YA so I wanted to try doing it on my own,” Bergstrom said. “In a lot of YA, the conflict takes place inside a walled garden, set up by outside adult forces. If you think of those stories as a metaphor for high school, they start to make a lot more sense, but that was one thing I wanted to depart from.”

This isn’t the first time an author has criticized YA novels as being dumbed down. Back in 2012, author Isaac Marion was criticized for Tweeting his opinions on teen fiction. 

“I don’t know who started the idea that it’s a YA book but it drives me crazy. There’s one character n the entire story who’s younger than 20 (Julie,19) the writing is not simplified for a young reading level at all, containing lots of big ‘ol fancy words like “loquacious” and “sepulchral”, and there’s nothing teen-specific about its themes.”

Why is it that authors sometimes feel the need to insult Young Adult fiction? Why does the stigma exist that YA isn’t complicated and that’s it simplified writing? 

Thankfully the hashtag MorallyComplicatedYA has been trending all across the board today. Many authors, bookstores, and readers have come to the defense, giving examples of YA books that are indeed complicated. They’ve chosen novels that are absolutely not simplified in context and writing style. And there are a lot of them. Hundreds. 

When is this going to stop? You don’t see this with other genres. You rarely see people complaining that crime novels are dumbed down or that fantasy novels don’t deal with anything other than unicorns and wizards? I don’t see people hiding their copies of The Girl on the Train in fear of people thinking they’re reading a stupid book. 

As authors, we write the books that appeal to us. We should never be ashamed or try and claim that our books are better than anything else on the market. And we should be supporting each other, not bashing. We’re all in this together.

 I love writing YA. Not once have I ever considered that I need to simplify things in order for my readers to understand. No, my characters have made decisions that could cripple some adults. Why? Because teenagers are capable of doing anything. 

And teenagers are smart. They know a cop-out when they see one. If you try simplifying something to a teenager, they’re gonna call you out on it.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Many Sides of the Strong Female Character

I heard something in my writing group the other day that made me want to write this.

Cinderella is a weak female stereotype.

She lives with her evil stepmother and is rescued by her fairy godmother. She’s dressed up in fine clothes, given everything she needs for one dreamy night, goes to a ball, and falls in love with a prince. She’s beautiful and mysterious and the prince can’t help but fall in love with her. So he searches until he finds her, and makes her his bride. They have their happily ever after.

We all know the story. It’s supposed to be a magical fairytale about true love. But because Cinderella is beautiful and rescued by a prince, she’s considered a silly weak girl. How dare she be a role model for young girls to look up to.

How about this? Cinderella was abused for many years, dressed in rags, insulted, worn down, belittled by her family, and forced into slavery. Through all this physical and emotional pain, she’s able to rise above and find a way out of her cruel predicament.

Kinda changes the perspective, right?

These days there is a large focus on strong female characters. They should be physically strong, emotionally stable, and able to kick butt. They don’t need to rely on a man to keep them safe, but it’s okay to find a bit of love while they’re out saving the world. They have to be strong willed, but heaven forbid they like the color pink. They need to be smart, sassy, not too bitchy, but have attitude.

Whew. That’s a lot of heavy load to carry.

So why does Cinderella get such a bad rap? Is it really so bad that maybe her goal in life was to find love, settle down and have a family? Isn’t it great that she was able to overcome her horrible past? Why can’t she get help from a man?

I love the strong female character. I really do. I write about her all the time. I agree that there needs to be more. But I think that strength comes in all shapes and forms. Why can’t a girl love pink and still kick ass? Why can’t a girl rely on (heaven forbid) someone else to help her in times of need?

So who are your favorite strong female characters and why?