Confessions of an Edgy YA Writer-Part 1

I write edgy young adult novels. There I’ve said it. On September 16, 2014, when Evidence of Things Not Seen is published, I will join peers like Ellen Hopkins, Laurie Halse Anderson, David Levithan and Coe Booth to name but a few who push the envelope in contemporary realistic fiction.

My goal is not to write edgy YA. My goal is not to titillate readers or incite controversy. My goal is to write honest and true characters.  My goal is to show how those characters grapple with tough moments. My goal is to write a book for teens that is cleared eyed and doesn’t wrap life up in a bow.  My goal is to write books that hold grit and dirt right next to faith and mystery.

Recently at the Texas Library Association, I got to hear Laurie Halse Anderson. She noted that it has been 15 years since SPEAK was published and she continues to write challenging books. Why? Because she learned from her minister father that Jesus was a storyteller and the reason he was a storyteller was because stories helped people learn, understand and prepare them for the world. She thinks that it’s important for kids to read books that allow them to tackle tough subjects safely. She thinks we do a disservice to kids if we protect them so much they are vulnerable when they go out in the world.

I agree.

In a May 6 Publisher Weekly article about the 2014 PEN World Voices Festival, Krystyna Poray Goddu reported about the panel, On the Edge. Moderated by Viking editor Sharyn November, panelists British novelist Sarwat Chadda, Canadian writer Niki Walker, author and photographer Susan Kuklin, and writer Robie Harris discussed sex and violence in children’s literature

While all the panelists were against censorship, they respected parents who chose not to buy their books. Robie Harris said, “There’s a difference between saying ‘I don’t want my child to read this,’ and saying ‘I don’t want any child to read this.’ I have had librarians tell me they would never have my books in their home, but that it’s their job to have them in the library. Those librarians are heroes, in my view.”

Panelists agreed that the concern about children reading inappropriate material for their age can be unjustified because young readers self-censor. “Kids who can’t handle something in a book don’t read it,” said Harris. “November added, “Often you read so you don’t have to experience. Parents need to trust their own child-raising skills and their own children more.”

In my view, what’s lovely about books is the time readers can take to reflect and reread. As much as I love movies, they can be a bit of a barrage. Books, though, give the reader time to revel, contemplate, even think about what they might have done in a similar situation.

So yes, I write edgy YA. Because I think teens want to look over the edge but they don’t necessarily want to jump.

18 Responses to “Confessions of an Edgy YA Writer-Part 1”

  1. Donna Bowman Bratton

    I love this, Lindsey. I look forward to reading your edgy YA. I know a whole heap of teens will look over the edges through your words and emerge reflective.

    Rather than censoring young readers, in this day of infinite web-based, over-the-edge visuals at their disposal, I think we should applaud the fact that they are reading rather than surfing. We need more books that challenge the edge, I think.

    You write, “Because I think teens want to look over the edge but they don’t necessarily want to jump.”
    Yes, Yes, Yes!

  2. Lindsey

    Thank you, Shelli and Donna. It is so great to have you women cheering for me as I stand on and for the edge.

  3. Lyn Miller-Lachmann

    We were in a workshop together my first semester–and your last–at VCFA, and I would have never thought (because you submitted a picture book) that you write edgy YA. But I love your writing and can’t wait to read Evidence of Things Not Seen. I also write edgy YA (no secret from my piece), historical as well as contemporary. In one case, I’m debating whether to submit the manuscript as an adult novel–not because of sex or violence or profanity (which it does have, but not gratuitously so)–but because the theme it addresses is more a part of adult conversations than that of teens.

  4. Lindsey

    Of course I remember you, Lyn. You stunned me with your insightful comments. Evidence has a lot of adult themes. But I think the YA audience is ready for it. At least I do now. I’ll keep you posted.

  5. Lyn Miller-Lachmann

    I have a different project with a boy who’s fascinated with particle physics (but it’s older MG/young YA with more humor than edge at this point), so I’m definitely eager to read yours.

  6. Lindsey

    PArticle physics is so cool and so ripe for MG/YA audiences. IT was fun to include in this story.

  7. Jeanette Larson

    I think I got one of the first ARCs….I might be bribed to lend it out. Loved the multiple POV and the mystery…also the particle physics which I still can’t for sure claim to understand.

  8. Lindsey

    Debbie, Cynthia, Jeanette and Varsha, Thanks for your love and support and guidance. It makes all the difference to me.

  9. Lindsey

    Penny, I love that you stand for: No Bows.

    Yours in the wild tangle of untethered hair.

  10. Laurie Ann Thompson

    Love this post, Lindsey! “…it’s important for kids to read books that allow them to tackle tough subjects safely… we do a disservice to kids if we protect them so much they are vulnerable when they go out in the world.” Yes! And the librarians who wouldn’t have it in their homes but stand up for having it in their libraries: yes! So much good thinking here. I can’t WAIT to read EVIDENCE. Hey, when is that ARC heading this way? 😉