Friday, October 20, 2017

Drugs & Alcohol in YA: When Is it Okay? - Guest Post by Elena


             




 I’ll get right to the point. Drugs and alcohol in young adult fiction are controversial topics. Should they be there at all? Are there exceptions? As a conservative Christian, I obviously don’t support the use of drugs or alcohol- but I believe there are exceptions to this rule.
                There are a few basic ways drugs and alcohol are portrayed in fiction.

                1: They are shamed. A character who drinks or uses drugs has dealt with their problems the wrong way. They have turned to alcohol/drugs as a solution to depression or some other problem, and may realize their mistake later… or not. One example of this that I have read is in The Ranger’s Apprentice: The Early Years series. One character, a middle-aged man who had just lost his job, turned to alcohol to cope with his depression. The story placed emphasis on his unfortunate decline from a skilled warrior to a decrepit old man drinking away his depression. This is an acceptable way to include drug or alcohol use in teen fiction- by showing their destructive power.

                2: They are glorified. They are shown in a good light, they are used as a ‘coping mechanism’ or a way to rebel. The author, while not necessarily praising their use, may joke about it or show it as being harmless. For example, in one romance novel I read, some of the characters attended a party where alcohol was served. A few attendees got drunk and it was repeatedly joked about. The tone of the story was almost offensive in the way that it glorified the use of drugs as just a fun thing to do. This method of including drugs and alcohol in fiction is clearly wrong. It goes against many things that I and many others believe.

3: They are used passively. They contribute nothing to the plot and aren’t shown to have negative or positive effects. They might be joked about though. It might be included in a coming-of-age story as an example of a bad decision, or it might be used to demonstrate the personality or flaws of a character.

If an author shows the destructive power of drugs, they are an acceptable element in the story. If drugs/alcohol are glorified or joked about with little point, they don’t belong.

                The editors of Crosscurrents of Children’s Literature compare negative elements in Children’s literature to ‘a vaccination, preventing worse diseases by allowing the recipient to experience a mild and ultimately protective version of the illness’ (Stahl, Hanlon & Lennox Keyser 2007: 129). Basically, a mild version of real-life issues can be beneficial to teens- introducing them to the world and its problems without destroying their innocence. It just shouldn’t be overdone.

               

-Elena Vines


 
Elena is a teenage girl from Texas, homeschooled throughout her life and a die-hard fan of stories of courage and valor. She plays guitar, piano, and bass guitar, and has been known to dabble in all styles of music, including rock, country, and rap. She has written more than twenty songs and is part of the praise team at an amazing inner city kids' ministry in her hometown. She is also the author of numerous stories, poetry, and a few novels. You can visit her at her blog A Homeschool Nerd's Tale

29 comments:

  1. This is an awesome post! I think showing drugs in a negative light is important because there is a drug usage among teens. We have to spread the light with our writing. Awesome job, Elena!

    ~Ivie

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  2. Great post, Elena!

    I'm not sure I agree with the last quote, but I can understand their reasoning behind it. I would rather the kids be exposed to negative elements through their parents first and then have it be exposed to literature in the teenage years. But that's my two cents.

    Catherine
    catherinesrebellingmuse.blogspot.com

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    1. I totally understand that, Catherine. Their parents should tell them about that sort of thing first.

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  3. This post is great! I agree that it shouldn't be glorified. :)
    Thank you for posting! ^_^

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  4. I couldn't agree more! Excellent post, Elena!!! XD

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  5. Do you think teens should listen to music with swearing involved or not? Let me know your opinion @ https://bryceswritingcorner.blogspot.com/2017/10/do-you-think-teens-should-listen-to.html

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    1. I think it depends on the person. If you're able to 'eat the fish and spit out the bones' as they say, you may be able to listen to swear words in music comfortably. You should just make sure that you won't make others uncomfortable or offend them.

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  6. Great things to think about! One thing I like to consider, though is also time period. For example, there were many men who smoked pipes in a certain time period in a regular habitual way. It has since declined in popularity, largely from better medical knowledge of smoking dangers. If someone were writing about the Tudor court in England, there would be a lot of alcohol at those parties at the palaces. Any thoughts about using alchohol in certain period-related settings?

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    1. It's true that alcohol and pipe smoking are traditionally correct for some eras and places, and I think that they would be appropriate in certain settings.

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  7. Great post, Elena, although I tend to think that Catherine is on the right track about that last quote. I sort of understand it...but if the book at all glorifies drugs and alcohol then the "inoculation" is worthless. Thanks for your thoughts on a difficult topic!

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    1. Thanks, and I totally understand. I think you and Catherine are both right about parents needing to tell their children about these kinds of sensitive issues first though.

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  8. Well, I don't believe alcohol is wrong - only becoming intoxicated. But I definitely agree with you on the subject of drugs or glorifying drunkenness!

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  9. I'm with Kellyn. I think it's okay for a character(or at least an adult one) to drink a little, as long as they don't get drunk. In my own story, my character and her new team go to a bar. (She is 16, the others are adults and it's a setting without an underage drinking law.) She has one drink, her new "friends" get badly drunk and nearly get robbed due to being too drunk to fight back properly. Because she's not drunk, she's able to fight the attackers off, with some help from her drunk team. In this way, I show that this character thinks drinking's okay, as long as one doesn't get drunk, which is my personal view on the subject.

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    1. Yep, I'm pretty much the same as Jessi! (okay, that was kind of redundant as she said she was the same as me, but ... she elaborated on my thoughts!) That seems like a great way to show that. :)

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    2. I couldn't agree more, Jessi. I'm actually over 21 and I've been around intoxicated people before. It's kinda nerve-wracking to be honest. Being intoxicated makes you lose control and awareness - two things that you really shouldn't lose control of.

      Catherine
      catherinesrebellingmuse.blogspot.com

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    3. I'm 18, so I've never had a drink. I honestly don't have a desire to drink. My parents aren't big drinkers and when they did drink, it was one drink. I don't think alcohol is wrong, per say, but intoxication is. I mean, Jesus wanted people to drink wine. I don't see a problem, but seeing other people drink a lot, I just have no desire to have any alcohol. I've also seen intoxicated people and its scary. You just don't know what they're going to do.

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    4. My grandma gave me a sip of her glass of wine once (okay, several times; she seems to think that I'm eventually going to learn to like it???) and I really disliked it. I've smelt beer and champagne ... both kind of toxic. I don't get it, but I don't think it's wrong in small amounts.

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    5. I'm the same way. I don't like the smell of beer. (I'm old enough to drink, but I haven't done it.)
      In my story, the main character's new "friends" getting drunk was the first warning sign for her that this was not the crowd she should be hanging out with, so it advances the plot that way too.

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    6. That story sounds really good:) Alcohol isn't necessarily evil at all. I have many extended family members who drink, and even my parents sometimes have a glass or two. But never once have I seen anyone in my family intoxicated or even close to being so. Drunkenness is the problem, not the drink. Just make sure to let readers know that.

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  10. I'm personally a teetotaler, although I don't feel like that should be pushed on anybody (it should be decided based on personal convictions.) I hate that people feel the need to drink to be cool. :P

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    1. I agree! It's totally unnecessary. I'm underage, but once I tasted wine and that stuff.... Bleh.

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  11. I was just re-reading Ranger's Apprentice book 12, and thought I'd mention how it was done there. Maddy gets drunk with 'friends', and the entire next chapter is full of "OOH HEADACHE I NEED TO THROW UP MY CLOTHES SMELL LIKE VOMIT help WHY DID I DO THIS i can't aim to save my life NEVER AGAIN". Which is a good look at the repercussions - and it takes a while for her mentor to trust her again, which is realistic.

    Actually, some of the earlier RA books (2? 3?) dealt with Will being addicted to a drug. I think that was done well, too.

    Thank you for the post, Elena! :)
    - Jem Jones

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    1. Ranger's Apprentice is a great example! Also, Maddie's POV afterwards was hilarious. I love John Flanagan.

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