I was running a little late for this panel, but it dealt with the issues you can address in YA. And why to use YA.
Using YA stories can help us model ways of dealing with real hard issues that teens might not know how to deal with. You can use it to show teens taking active roles in overcoming trauma.
Why Do We Need YA – and YA that deals with Hard Stuff?
- So the readers know they’re not alone
- So the readers can see heroes fighting their own darkness
- To provide tent poles for teens, with their wild emotions/hormones – teens get subtext
- As an escape. They can pull the readers out of their own situations and give them the distance they need to examine it more objectively.
- To model how to process certain things, and can identify things the readers are needing or feeling. Putting into words what they can’t.
Things to Avoid:
- Don’t just have a quick fix for the issues
- Don’t treat mental illness or chronic health issues as something that can be cured. Show them being lived with.
For teens who may be worried about a book being too intense or triggering:
- the Library of Congress text on the Copyright page tells the themes the story will be dealing with.
- Scholastic books tend to have thematic questions at the back, to demonstrate what themes are addressed
- Best is a librarian who knows the reader and what they can handle, but responses to hard scenes can be unpredictable.
- Butter – Erin Jane Lang – Deals w/ obesity, suicide, and social media
- Rage: A Love Story – Julie Anne Peters – Deals w/ lesbians in an abusive relationship
- This Song Will Save Your Life – Leila Sales – Deals w/ friendship, identity, and suicide
- Daughters unto Devils – Amy Lukavics – Deals w/teen pregnancy, miscarriage [Horror]
- Beautiful Decay – Sylvia Lewis – Deals w/ Alcoholic parent [Zombies]
- Pretty Girl-13 – Liz Coley – Deals w/ Abuse
- Chinese Handcuffs – Chris Crutcher – Deals w/ suicide, abuse
YA should always offer hope.
You don’t need to “happily ever after” the book, but end in hope.