The dark side of YA – how much is too much?

Coming back to a topic that we’ve discussed on here before — what is appropriate content in a YA novel? This question is in regards to violence, sex, language, and adult themes, all of which are rated material in the movies. However, the publishing industry has no such ratings. Literature cannot be rated, right? It would mar the artistic value of it and limit its voice.

And yet, so many parents ask me, how do I know that a book I pick up in the teen section is appropriate for my child?

Let me tell you, there’s no easy way to answer this question. My best advice, even concerning my own books, is to have parents read the book first. But that, my friends, is a sacrifice of time.

I recently read a fantastic post titled “Darkness Too Visible” by Megan Cox Gurdon (okay, I love that a book reviewer shares part of my name!). It’s almost a year old, but it’s a wonderful essay on the subject matter.

It makes me proud that I took a stand on explicit swearing and gratuitous violence in my Teen Mobster Series. And that’s not an easy thing to do, considering the subject matter. Some might say that isn’t very brave of me, but I’ll tell you what, it’s what I’m comfortable presenting to that age bracket.


Living in a dystopian wonderland. Is futuristic discontent replacing the vampire?


Twilight, Vampire Diaries, and Blue Bloods are just a few of the many, many YA series based on the supernatural creature that have glutted the market. Publishers and agents everywhere swore off wanting to see any more Twilight-type manuscripts, and yet, it seems that these books kept popping up everywhere.

But although vampires themselves boast immortatilty, their characters may be reaching the end of their life-span as the go-to YA theme. Enter dystopia.

Hunger Games. Matched. Delirium. These are just three of the popular series that feature a dystopian society. If you don’t know what Hunger Games is about, you must have been stranded on a desert island for the past few months. As for the other two series, they both focus on a controlled society that makes decisions for the population about love and marriage. And for what it’s worth, they’re both beautifully written.

I love all three of these series (well, I’ll admit some disappointment in the Hunger Games ending, but I’m one of a few). I guess the books feel so different from all the contemporary and paranormal series out there.

The question is, do editors want more of the same? Or something else? The million dollar question is, what’s the next big thing?

I’m hoping it’s mobsters😉

Gritty, grownup, and gripping. Markus Zusak novels gives YA a punch in the gut.

I finished The Book Thief a few months ago, but I waited to chat about it until I readThe Messenger, Markus Zusak’s earlier novel.

Let me be up front here–this is heavy duty, mature material. But let me also say that this is exactly the kind of reading I’d love to see more teens take on.

There’s nothing wrong with all the fun dystopian and paranormal trilogies out there. Heck, I eat them up too. But these two books by Zusak accomplish something that is phenomenal–high entertainment coupled with imaginative writing that feels like a picture is being painted. Oh, and the books make you think too, but not until you’ve thoroughly enjoyed them.

Again–this is some grownup stuff. Both novels feature mature language, and The Messenger also talks pretty candidly about sex. But there’s something about these that make them special. Messenger is set in present day Australia; Thief takes place in WWII Germany. But Zusak’s impressionistic writing style is evident in both.

Check’em out here.