Tuesday, March 12, 2013
What's okay for YA?
I had a book release last week. A book that is heavy on profanity, violence and sexual situations. It is upper-YA, but I'm kind of amazed that it made it through all the hoops it had to with my publisher. That it is out now, not much different than it was when I drafted it. Some of you know I had some issues with my debut novel, Pretty Amy being passed-over for review by a national teen magazine because it mentioned drug use. You can read about that here.
The fact that Dear Cassie is out and people ARE NOT mentioning the language or violence or sexual situations in reviews of the book made me start to think about, what is okay in YA.
Over 200 fucks, that is down from almost 400 or 500 in the original draft. I would say my editor and publisher had a pretty strong stomach for letting me keep as many as they did.
All those fucks were okay, but the one that made my editor reconsider was the one that sat at the top of the first page.
Folks who read PRETTY AMY would not be surprised that the first real word in Cassie's book was: fucking. It was in every chapter heading. My editor loved it and I loved it, but on page one, the page people read when they are glancing at your book and deciding to buy it or read it, it had the potential to turn people off.
Now, these people probably would be turned off eventually anyway, but there is something to be said for not having it happen before they even read the first line of the book.
I got this. This being my second novel, I got this in a way I didn't with my first. This book is the book where people will either say, she did it again. Or, she was a fluke.
And so, I removed it from page one. If this were an adult book could I have gotten away with having that extra fuck? How would agents/publishers have responded to queries of this book if I had to sell it to a publisher other than Entangled? I wonder.
YA is changing, but as writers/readers of YA we are always asking ourselves is this too much? The thing is when you're in high school there is no censor there making sure everything you deal with is sweetness and light.
I for one don't think there should be just sweetness & light in YA books either.
I applaud my publisher for being brave enough to publish Dear Cassie as I wrote it for the most part.
For them and for me, real life is what is okay in YA.
What are your thoughts on what crosses the line in YA?
Lisa Burstein is a tea seller by day and a writer by night. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from the Inland Northwest Center for Writers at Eastern Washington University and is glad to finally have it be worth more than the paper it was printed on. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her very patient husband, a neurotic dog and two cats. Pretty Amy is her first novel. She never went to her senior prom.
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