Sunday, January 20, 2008

Stirring the Stew....WITH A KNIFE!

Okay, but, seriously, Suzanne totally has a point. It's hard to divide books into those that push the boundaries of acceptable plot/theme/language in an honest way and ones that totally go over the top. I've read parts of Sexkittens, and I know that it's fantastic, but...let's pretend, for a second, that it really was just about cheerleaders running around having sex. Is that okay?

Unlike Sexkittens, you couldn't really predict my more risque bits of subject matter from the titles. These Humans All Suck? Immaculate conception...and all the blasphemy that implies. If it Ain't Broke? Psych wards. Pumpkin Patch Kids? Abortion.

But I don't find any of it gratuitous...probably because none of it falls under your typical sex/drugs/rock and roll headings of teenage edgydom. Because I do feel like those three are overdone...and I do feel like they're grossly exaggerated. That they're not accurate reflections of the modern teenage experience.

I appreciate YAs where the characters drink sometimes. Or smoke pot sometimes. Or have sex sometimes.

I'm fine with anything in YA as long as it rings true. And, truth is, a lot of the ultra-edgy stuff doesn't ring true to me. It's not that I'm a prude (anyone who knows me is probably laughing at that suggestion) I just know that life isn't edgy a large percentage of the time.

It's about the mix.

(now I'm wondering if I'm allowed to post that....)

What I want is realism.

Ain't that the truth....

<3 hannah


althrasher said...

This is a GREAT post, Shady! I've read some things that are just edgy for the sake of being gratuitous sex, parties and drugs **coughcoughIAMCHARLOTTESIMMONScoughcough** and it felt really, really fake.

SuzanneYoung said...

Love ya, Shades. Uh...I mean, Hannah. And I don't find your stuff gratuitous at all.

To be honest, I haven't seen a lot of YA that is edgy for the sake of being edgy. I believe that editors catch that sort of stuff before it's actually published.

I think there is a belief that there is a lot of raunchy stuff out there, but I'm not sure it's actually true.

And none of my characters have sex for shock value. They just really wanted to. ;)

courtney said...

Oh dear, another comment. I've already made one on Suz's post and I can't seem to stop. But I love edgy discussions. Good post, Shady.

I think it's important to note that there is no definitive definition of the 'modern teenage experience', which will often vary from teen to teen depending on their gender, the amount of privilege they do/don't have, where they live, where they go to school, who their friends are and in that sense, I'm not necessarily sure I would agree that the sex, drugs, rock and roll headings of teenage edgydom are overdone. They're sort of mainstays in North American culture and are tied to a lot of milestones, coming of age experiences, the act self-exploration etc. I feel that because of this, they always remain relevant (and when you tie into factors like class and gender issues, I think they become even more interesting).

It's true that these fictionalized treatments of teen lives won't reflect and represent EVERY modern day teen's experiences but it would be impossible for any YA novel to do that. That's why connecting to a reader on an emotional scale is so vital. Drugs and sex aren't universal experiences and may not totally reflect the lives of every teen, but most people understand what it is to be happy, sad, lonely, heartbroken, etc.

If Sexkittens WAS just about cheerleaders running around having sex (and Suz, you are a great enough writer that I'm sure you could!!) & could still give me that emotional base to connect with... I'd totally read it and be okay with it.

hannah said...

Courtney--definitely a good point. "Modern Teenage Experience" is a buzzphrase I'm fond of...usually when I'm bitching about how adults just don't understand us. ;)

In all honesty, though, I feel that there's not enough moderation in YA. I feel like people are either sex-crazed or sex-not, drug-addicted or drug-opposed, when, in real life, most people I know tend to fall somewhere in-between.

bethany said...

I can only think of one book that I'm pretty sure was gratuitous for the sake of gratuiosity. It had some lipstick on the cover. I'm sure there are other ones out there, but I have a stack of outstanding to be read- books, so I'm not looking for the substandard ones.

courtney said...

Hannah, there can definitely be a lack of moderation in certain novels, for sure but I tend to think of those ones as try-too-hard, wannabe-edgy.
(Won't name names, though.) :)

Catherine said...


I suppose it's also down to what you experienced.

I was drinking and taking drugs from 16, although, oddly, not having sex. :P I was hitching to go to clubs in the dodgiest part of the city, and I was a skanky little gutter-goth, stomping about in my stompy boots. So yeah, I *get* stories about that kinda thing.

So a lot of that goes into my stories. Would you consider that gratuitous? Possibly. I dunno. I know stuff about cheerleaders (no offence Sue) makes little sense to me, because it's not part of our culture.

Ah well, guess it's all relative.

Jordan said...

I think what's gratuitous and what's not is not necessarily about what is realistic...because honestly, some people do it all and then some. Anything is possible. I think it comes down to the story, how it is portrayed, what is necessary to tell a good tale.

If it's about a teenage sex addict...fine. I just would like it to be shown realistically, with all the consequences that being a teenage sex addict entails. If it's about a totally prude...then everything that entails. Other people's reactions, the internal conflicts, everything. It's when things are written for shock-value that I start thinking something's gratuitous.

I hate shock value. So not impressed.

courtney said...

But don't forget the difference between expected vs. unexpected consequences--a teenage sex addict might not face negative consequences but that doesn't mean there are none. Or that a lack of negative--or in this case, expected consequences--means that such a portrayal would be unrealistic.

Jordan said...

Excellent point, Courtney. Thanks for the clarification.