Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Insights of Teri Lesesne

"In a time when teens are confronted with difficult issues (no longer do we not discuss school violence, war, famine, global warming, terrorism, pandemics, and so forth with kids), YA literature discusses difficult topics with a frankness that isn't about didacticism so much as honesty; that isn't about lecturing so much as exploring; that isn't about answers so much as questions."
~ Teri S. Lesesne (from Adolescent Literacy)




We write YA literature at an exciting time. The genre has changed and become stronger within recent years, and we have greater freedom regarding topics and characters. According to Teri Lesesne, "Books do more now than present characters that break through the stereotypes; plots can shatter stereotypical ideas and portrayals of prom, peer pressure, drunken driving, anorexia and other subjects." We are writing more and more about topics that had once been ignored or banned. How cool is that?

Some of the breakout novels listed by Lesesne include:

Skin
by Adrienne Vrettos - about anorexia
Cruise Control, Stuck in Neutral, and Inside Out by Terry Trueman - about illness and disease
Rules by Cynthia Lord - deals with autism
Breathing Underwater and Diva by Alex Flinn - deal with abusive relationships and the post break-up recovery
Cut
by Patricia McCormick - about self-inflicted cutting
Sold
by Patricia McCormick - about a 12-year-old girl sold into sexual servitude Tangerine by Edward Bloor and Firegirl by Tony Abbot - both deal with handicaps Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan and Luna by Julie Anne Peters - both deal with real-world sexual orientations

We could all add titles to that list. Ellen Hopkins immediately comes to my mind. The point is that this is a wonderful time to be writing. Today, take a moment to appreciate the freedom we now have as writers. Take a moment to appreciate your genre.

Lesesne says it best: "The times, well, they are a-changin', and this new generation of YA literature does indeed reflect the changes of teens and the times."

36 comments:

Carolyn V. said...

This is an awesome time to be writing YA! I love it! Thanks for the reminder Shannon! =)

Roxane B. Salonen said...

Shannon, since my next project is YA, this is well timed. It's got me even more excited about the ideas that have been brewing -- and becoming even more real to me since the conference last weekend. Thanks for the enthusiasm-building!

Elana Johnson said...

What a great list of books. I need to read some of those. And I so agree. There are so many topics out there, so many things teens are struggling with. Books are a great way to show them the reality while providing hope.

Aubrie said...

I love YA literature. My next WIP is going to be YA :)

Courtney Barr - The Southern Princess said...

I love this. There were good books when I was a Teen - wait some Great books only not as many- but it seems that finally publishers have realized the importance of YA. How it not only touches those that are actually YA in age as they travel through life, but also those of us that sometimes need to remember or realize what is out there NOW.

Thanks Shannon - Love this!


Visit My Kingdom Anytime

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Carolyn - Thanks, Carolyn

Roxane - Yay! I look forward to hearing about your new project.

Elana - reality and hope...I love it!

Aubrie - It's a great genre.

Courtney - Yes! That's exactly right, Princess. Well said.

Jen said...

Well then I love that I'm enjoying writing YA if it's so hot right now! I hope everyone loves my book as much as I love it and that when I get around to sending it out we aren't past it!

I love the quotes and the list of fabulous books! I'm glad publishers are realizing how important YA is!

Susan R. Mills said...

So true! I love the topics covered into today's YA literature. It's so different than when I was a teen.

Kenda said...

Thanks for the book titles, Shannon--looks like I've got more "must-reads" to add to my list :-)

Kayeleen Hamblin said...

Great post, as always. I love that there is so much freedom to write and explore the world now. The most controversial subject I read as a teen was death. The world is more complex than that now.

Heather said...

I couldn't agree more, it IS a wonderful time to be writing YA. Teens are more aware and concerned about the world around them than I've ever seen them. It's a wonderful thing that I think bodes very well for the future.

Mary Aalgaard said...

I heard on the radio yesterday that several YA authors have been questioned and censored because of content in their books. One response: Not every book is for every reader. Great list. I need to read more of these! Thanks.

And, in response to your mention of daffodils on my blog. Check out the Writer's Almanac for today (4-15), William Wordsworth, daffodils, and his poem, I wandered lonely as a cloud.

Thanks for your sunshine today!

Tracy said...

Great post, this is the second time I've seen a discussion about the change in YA fiction.

I think it's great to remember that teens are essentially US only younger.

Patti said...

Great list and a reminder that there's hope for every kind of book.

CMOM Productions said...

There is so much to offer young readers today. It is a wonderful thing. :)

TerryLynnJohnson said...

Yay, good news for YA writers! So nice to hear, and thanks for the great list of books!

Bane of Anubis said...

Though the issues are more global and dynamic, and thus more complex, I would contend teens (and everyone) in 1st world societies has it far easier than ever before and thus, IMO, less exciting b/c daily struggles aren't as dramatic/consequential. There's more to shout about, but that's what it is mostly, IMO -- shouting... a bunch of King-Kongs w/o any airplanes circling... okay, I digressed off-topic a bit (surprise, surprise :)... but, ultimately, the freedom afforded us in today's world is amazing. Thank God for Secularism (that's my smart-ass comment for the day ;)

Kelly H-Y said...

Wonderful post, Shannon!

sarahjayne smythe said...

Great list. I'll have to check these out. :)

Sheri Larsenッ said...

I agree. What a fabulous time to be writing YA, spotlighting so many topics that just twenty years ago was taboo. YAY for YA!!

Angela said...

I so agree! Thanks for this post!

TheEnchantedLocket said...

You are so right about the appreciation thing!! My little girls (10 years old) are crazy about reading. A huge THANK YOU to all the authors out there that have inspired my kiddos to LOVE reading.

xoxo
CJ

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

I'll have to check out these books. It is a wonderful time to be a writer of YA books. I think a lot of good can be done by promoting good literature that uplifts our youth to do better and be better. Thanks for the great post.

Mary_not_Martha said...

I noticed this as well. I was browsing in the YA section and they have two shelves just for these types of books. When we were kids there was just God and "Margret"!

Bossy Betty said...

Thanks for the list! Some great observations here!

Jennie Englund said...

YES! A post with Ellen Hopkins AND Bob Dylan in it!!!

Lydia Kang said...

Great list, will definitely have to check these out! THanks for posting!

Bethany Mattingly said...

What an amazing list! YA is wonderful. There's so much support and information and....oh, I could go on for days about how much I love my genre! Great post!

Susan Fields said...

I couldn't agree more. The kids are dealing with these issues, and we don't do them any favors by ignoring them. Great post!

Shelley Sly said...

All of those book sound great! Thanks for this list; I love YA. :)

L.T. Elliot said...

I'm glad to see this boom in YA because when I was a YA, I had virtually no selection. I'm happy knowing that my kids will have a wide variety of books to read.

Myrna Foster said...

The YA section is my favorite.

Thanks for stopping by my blog.

Creepy Query Girl said...

I think YA in itself is such a great genre. There's so much you can do with it, and I will take your advice and stop a moment to appreciate the freedom we have as writers within this genre. It's awesome.

Christina Farley said...

YA only seems to be getting better. It's really such a new genre in looking at it's current form. Exciting times!

laurel said...

What I love is that the genre is widening, where it used to be so narrow, just "coming of age" stories and fluffy humor/romance. Now it's offering many "adult genres" with teen protagonists: mysteries, paranormal, literary.

I love writing in the genre because it's a turning-point time of life, when you decide who you will become.

Sandy Shin said...

I love everything about the widening YA genre. It's indeed such an exciting time to be a YA reader and writer. :)

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