Thursday, August 18, 2011

That's dope - or maybe it's not?

Wow, it's been so long since I've done a regular post with all the competitions we've had here. But a huge thank you to all the agents and followers who participated. At the bottom of the post you'll find the winners of the John Cusick Micro Synopsis.

Today I want to talk about something that could be a bit more controversial - drugs. More specifically recreational drugs in YA novels where it is not issues based.

For me I have mixed views. On one hand I understand how impressionable young readers can be, and feel that writers have a responsibility not to lightly insert sex, swearing or drug use into YA novels. On the other hand I believe that writers also should, where possible, portray things realistically. And drugs are out there, and some teens use them.

And then, I'm also a mother and I would love it if my kids never touched drugs.

So I'm looking for you opinion - are scenes with recreational drug use okay in YA novels that are not issues based?

So, you can take the poll, but I'd love you to also leave some qualifying comments.

Is it okay to have drug use in a non-issues YA book?
No, writers have an obligation to society not to promote drug use.
No, not in YA. But in adult fiction it's okay.
No, but in issues-based YA it's okay
Yes, some teens do drugs.
Yes, if it's not glorified and is realistic.
Yes free polls

Now Drumroll... and the message from Mr. John Cusick himself:

This was a tough one! There were some really fabulous ideas, and the final five were very close.
GAME SHOW by Pam Vickers

30 Page Synops:
STORM CHASERS by Andrea Leech
Untitled Time-Travel Y.A. by Melanie Stanford
I thought these two deserved Honorable Mention:
WORMHOLE by Scott Springer
RIGID STEPPES by Tamara Heiner

Contestants are welcome to query John via the S©ott Treimel NY  agency's online submission form.


  1. I think there are always kids at every school that are using and certain types of characters would not be realistic without including some illegal drug use. It doesn't have to be the MC, or it could be, as long as it's not all about partying and getting f-ed up. Show the reality, the paranoia, the missing schoolwork, the consequences, even if it's just negative reactions of peers and I think it is okay to have drugs in YA.

  2. Great conversational post! I voted "Yes, if it's not glorified and is realistic", but I would like to add that it should also portray some of the negative consequences that come with using drugs. The number of teenagers that use drugs seems to increase daily, and the big drugs are even hitting the smaller towns. We live in a town with a population of about 5,000 people because we wanted to stay away from the crime and drugs. About 3 months ago, the house right next door to us got raided by the local narcotics unit... it was a methanphetamine lab! Drugs really are everywhere and I think authors who portray the reality of it are actually educating the children.

  3. I also picked "yes, if it's not glorified." And I'm all for showing the consequences.
    Congrats to the winners of the query contest.

  4. Congrats to the winners! Very cool. And Yes, if it's not glorified is my response, too. The consequences need to be shown along with the high because I've been close to drug users, and it's not pretty. It's actually pretty scary at times. Kids need to know that.

  5. yes - but please make it REAL! lol.

    And I actually LIKE to see it in books where it isn't the MAIN issue, but comes up.

  6. Thanks for the feedback!! Can't wait to see the poll results.

    Contest winners don't panic!! An email is coming with instructions when I'm home from work.

  7. Interesting post but I actually have a question about the contest and couldn't find any other place to ask it! I was one of the runners up and I'm not sure if I'm supposed to be filling out the STNY submission form or sending the 30 pages somewhere else. Anyone know? The way the form is set up, I can't send them straight to John Cusick and he'll never know it was from the contest. Help?

  8. Hi Melaine!!! I'm sending the email when I get home. I'm in Australia so it's a few hours away yet =D

  9. I think a lot of peeps chose 'yes, if its not glorified'. I know I did because this is a realistic element in teen life. But you can show the consequences and weave it into the story line without being preachy.

  10. I choose "Yes, if it's not glorified." Teens do drugs. That's not an opinion, it's a fact. I just graduated from a small-town school. I remember one day when the drug dogs (which we had in our school for routine searches at least two or three times a year) found marijuana seeds in a classmate's car. While I've never seen anyone smoke weed, I know that there are several teens that do.

    I strongly believe that literature should reflect life the way it truly is. And the truth of it is some teens do drugs. Not writing about it is not going to change that.

  11. True confession: as a teen reader, I steered away from stories that were "gritty", because they were usually bleak. So bleak. And not at all entertaining. You'd have your teen protagonist, smoking, drinking, then someone would get pregnant, then someone else would die in a drunk driving accident, and then someone would get a beat-down from their abusive parents, and THEN it would start to get ugly.

    Of course, this was in the 80s, and based on what I found in my local libraries, and naturally kids have more choice today, thank goodness!

    But still, I find a lot of that activity in a book can be a sign of lessons-learning bleakness-to-come.

  12. I chose yes (if it's realistic/not glorified), but the truth is that while I think it's okay to include them in YA books this is also the NUMBER ONE thing that makes me dislike or not finish a book. Maybe this is because every person I've known in real life who has done drugs recreationally hasn't been able to stop at "casual" use and have ruined their lives or families. Every single person. So it's a difficult thing for me to read casual, recreational drug use and think it's okay and will end well.

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  14. Hi SM! Since I haven't gotten an email yet, does that mean the honorable mentions aren't invited to submit?