Saturday, April 21, 2018

Lights in the Dark -- Why We Need Clean YA


Writing clean YA in today’s publishing market can be tough. Most often, it’s the dark, gritty stories that make their way onto the bestseller lists. This can be discouraging for authors who want to write wholesome YA. If the dark stuff is selling and that’s what the readers seem to want, why keep writing for the light?

That’s a legitimate doubt, especially if your career is being a writer of clean YA. While writing clean YA might instinctively seem like “the right thing to do,” what are the concrete reasons that spur us to write stories that are nearly counter-cultural?

It’s these important reasons that I want to tackle here today.


Reason 1: Readers Can’t Always Relate to Characters in ‘Unclean’ YA Books

Many of the protagonists in unclean YA books seem to find themselves in situations that young adults and teens face in the world today.

But not everyone faces them.

Not every teen struggles with a drug addiction, two breakups in a week, or an environment saturated in cursing. Not every teen has to pick between two perfect guys while trying to save the world. While it might seem like a majority of teens do, trust me—as a teenager—we don’t. I could probably scrape together numerous names of teenagers who don’t deal with things that fall into the “unclean” category when it comes to literary content.

This is where clean YA has the potential to grow as a niche. There are a lot of young adults out there looking for clean reads—characters in situations they can relate to. Let’s stand in the possibility that unwholesome YA is the result of a world getting darker, but here’s the kicker: not everyone lives in the deepest parts of that darkness. Therefore, let’s give that crowd some characters they can relate to.


Reason 2: Clean YA Calls Readers to Become the Best Version of Themselves

A lot of the characters in unclean YA novels do things that, as young children, we were told not to do. Yet the characters in these novels regularly do these things, and oftentimes don’t suffer the true consequences of them or even show remorse for their unhinged behavior.

Again, this is where clean YA comes in. It provides the opportunity to encourage young adults to aspire to be better people. This isn’t to say that characters in clean YA novels can’t mess up. They can—and they should—but at least then acknowledge that they did 'fall from grace' and either grow from the experience or face the true results.

The niche of clean YA has the potential to encourage its readers to become the best version of themselves.


Reason 3: Clean YA’s Ultimate Message is that of Hope—And the World Needs That Right Now

Pick up an unclean YA book these days, and it seems the endings only offer hollow, cliché solutions to moral and personal problems. They often preach that finding 'true love' makes everything okay or that rebellion against authority—be it parents, family, community, or government—solves all the world’s problems. These types of solutions are misleading because they only offer a false hope. False hope is like a Band-Aid on a deep, mortal wound; it can’t stop the bleeding forever.

Clean YA, on the other hand, offers real hope based on Truth—realistic antidotes that aren’t perfect, but that guide us to truth. Clean YA speaks of people who fight for truth in a world of confusion and chaos, showing that good can overcome evil and that good even exists. It shines light in the midst of darkness, promising that things will turn out okay in the end. This type of hope can truly heal mortal wounds, not temporarily patch them up.


The world—especially the teenagers and young adults in it—needs stories like this; stories with relatable characters, a calling to become better versions of ourselves, and a message of hope. Though it’s ultimately the reader’s choice of which book type of book they pick up, there are readers out there searching for wholesome YA.

Maybe it’s a character flaw of mine, but I believe in hope. When I reach for a book, I reach for one that will offer me what I’m seeking, and that is often words that are like a salve to the sometimes wounded, discouraged parts of my soul. And those words are found in clean YA novels.

I’m not the only one looking for these novels. So writers, let’s saturate the publishing market with light and hope.

Write on,
~~Audrey Caylin~~ 

 Audrey Caylin is a full-time dreamer and aspiring independent author living on words and the wild beauty of life. Somewhere along the way, she began searching for green flashes during sunsets and embraced a mission to bring hope to the world through her writing. Being a ghostwriter for God is now her greatest joy and honor as she weaves stories of faith and feeling for other young adults. She’s a contributor to the Project Canvas book, future freelance editor, and a member of the Young Writers Workshop. When she’s not writing or dreaming, she’ll probably be driving along the west coast with the windows rolled down or with her face tilted to the sky on a rainy day. She blogs at audreycaylin.com

28 comments:

  1. This was BEAUTIFUL, Audrey. I love it. <3 Thank you for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  2. So well put! You're exactly right that there are many, many young people today who aren't living in darkness. I like to hope that they reach for books that they can relate to, but I also know that sometimes reading about darker subjects can help people guard against them -- if they can recognize right from wrong. So I don't shy away from reading books with darker subjects like racism or murder, but I also know not to emulate them. And I like to read cleaner lighter things too so that I can just enjoy them without thinking deeply about them :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! And I definitely agree. Though light reads are great, sometimes the light shines brighter in the darkness, if you know what I mean :)

      Delete
    2. Exactly! I like how you put that -- "sometimes the light shines brighter in the darkness." If a story has characters struggling with something bad, like persecution or abuse or someone pressuring them to sin, then it can make their behavior and beliefs so much clearer and more beautiful.

      We know we're going to experience sin and pain and bad stuff in this world, and seeing even fictional people battle against those things can really help and inspire us. Or, it works that way for me, anyway!

      Delete
  3. Excellent. Posted on FB and shared with a friend.

    ReplyDelete
  4. This might sound really odd, but I read this with the intent to play devil's advocate with you on at least one of your points, Audrey. But...then I realized I literally had zero arguments for any of your points. So I congratulate you because goodness, you've done your homework, girly. I agree with basically every. single. point you made in this post. <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw, thanks so much! Though I'm definitely open to other opinions and such because they challenge me to strengthen my own, I'm glad you enjoyed =)

      Delete
  5. Wow, this was so powerful!!! We so need light and hope. Our role models and heroes, the people we want to be like should have hope, and light. We need more models of purity. Yes, we all struggle, and that should be shown, but we should also see REAL victory.
    astoryspinner.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  6. Good post! We do need light and hope in our book and lives.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Louder for the people in the back!
    This is a great post! I wholeheartedly agree with everything you just said.
    It is so hard to find YA novels that aren’t saturated in sex, substance abuse, and swearing. We definitely need people to counter balance the dark stories flooding bookshelves.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Maddie! I really hope there will be more clean YA books like that out there one day soon :)

      Delete
  8. This is great post, Audrey! Thank you! :D

    ReplyDelete
  9. YES to this whole post! Amazing job!! <3

    ReplyDelete
  10. Shout it from the rooftops! Awesome post, Audrey!

    Catherine

    ReplyDelete
  11. YES!!!! We need books that encourage us, that motivate us to be better, that push us on to good things. :) I hope and pray the clean YA niche continues to grow!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ABSOLUTELY! It's been a huge blessing seeing it and enthusiasm for it grow so much already.

      Thanks for reading!

      Delete
  12. Such a wonderful post, Audrey! Keep writing for the light! <3

    ReplyDelete
  13. This is a wonderful. post!:) And I totally agree we need clean YA books. Definitely will show the good in people oppose to the darker side...
    -Quinley

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thank you for this post. It embodies everything I hope to achieve with my writing.

    ReplyDelete