I’ve been doing a lot of critiquing lately, primarily in the genre of YA contemporary. I am averaging three to four manuscripts a week and have started to notice a distinct pattern – PARENTS. All in heavy doses, and all extremely supportive.
You all know my sentiments on parents and the purposeful insertion of moral lessons into YA literature. If you don’t, take a look at last week’s post No Preaching Allowed. But I am not here to reiterate that post, rather speculate as to why me and my fellow CP’s are suddenly seeing the insertion of June and Ward Cleaver into nearly ½ of the books we are critiquing. For what it’s worth, here’s my take on it.
In the last couple of years, we have seen the emergence of a new phenomenon – the crossover novel. A significant portion of YA sales are being tracked to the 25+ crowd, a population that has survived the tumultuous teenage years. Add in the fact that the YA genre is seeing an explosion of new authors, a lot of whom are in that crossover age bracket, and I think we've found the problem. We, the authors, possess an unfortunate amount of hindsight.
Hindsight is fantastic when you are thirty-something and trying damn hard not to repeat the idiotic mistakes you made as a youth. It’s what makes me fill my tank every time my gas gauge goes below a quarter of a tank. It's what prompts me to drink liquor before my beer and never leave the house without makeup. What is doesn’t give me is license to inject my clear-headed, rational thoughts into the out of control life of my MC. It does not give me the go ahead to insert my opinions into the novel via supportive parents. And it sure as hell doesn’t give me the right to treat my MCs with kid gloves.
Do my Mc’s make heinous mistakes? Absolutely; in nearly every chapter. Do I want to reach out and slap them, scream at them to just stop and think? You bet. Do a make a conscious effort to rein that urge in? HELL YES! Why? Because being a teenager is messy business. Sure we all got the parental talk about sex, and drugs, and drinking and driving. I got it on both ends – parents and Catholic School. But not once did anybody ever talk to be about what to do when your boyfriend of two years gets drunk at a party and decides to play a little game of Russian roulette with his father’s police-issued pistol. I never heard the conversation about what to do when the girl who sits next to you in Chemistry class is no longer there, her brother having gotten drunk that weekend, wrapping his car around a tree and killing his only sister. And I sure as hell never got the lecture on what to do when your best friend decides to get pregnant rather risk losing her boyfriend to some college girl three thousand miles away.
These are all things your teenage mc’s have to struggle through themselves. Let them! Let them grow, and learn, and fall flat on their asses, but please, please don’t let their parents swoop in and make everything perfect!