I’ve talked before about how an author needs to check what their book is saying. Even if you write without any intention of having a message, there may be one, and if you look at it carefully, what you’re saying, suggesting or inferring might not be particularly healthy. In adult writing, it maybe doesn’t matter so much (though I’d prefer it if all authors were socially responsible), but in YA
writing, it is extremely important because your works are going to a naïve and often impressionable audience.
I’m not going into sex and violence here, but into something much more subtle – beliefs about the nature of things and about what is appropriate behavior. Love and sexual attraction is a common theme in YA, and exploring these things is one of the exciting things about growing up, but what if we pick up misguided ideas about it? If we read many books with the same point of view, why wouldn’t we assume that that point of view was correct?
The ‘Twilight series’ had a lot of good things in it and some not so good things. (I’ve mentioned the good things elsewhere.) A friend of mine didn’t like the suggestion that it was okay for a boy to stalk a girl to the extent that he walked uninvited into her bedroom in the middle of the night. It is rather creepy when you think about it. I scoffed at the time, but when my daughter’s boyfriend did exactly that to her, she freaked out and so did I. Who says young people aren’t that impressionable? And, yes, he had read the book.
Twilight also subscribes to a common theme that reoccurs in YA books, that of someone else completing you, of not being whole or able to cope without them. I believe that this gives a very unhealthy message, especially to young people. A healthy love relationship is between two whole people. A woman does not need a man to
complete her. This kind of dependency on another person is not something we should encourage. It disempowers women, and is the sort of attitude that the Women’s Liberation Movement sought to overcome back in the seventies. Sigh! Was it all for nothing? At least this wasn’t the only theme in Twilight – it was balanced
by other healthier ones – however, I read a book recently where this idea was the major theme.
It was a fantasy, but good fantasy illuminates reality and highlights truth. The message in this book was that there is just one perfect person for us and that he is the boy you dream about, an idea that is neither true nor helpful. The lead characters also declared their love for each other after only three days. Love? Really? The
truth is that lust is instantaneous but love isn’t. The boy of our dreams is not real and if we keep looking for him, we’ll be disappointed, or we’ll marry the one we think is our ideal and at some point the reality hits with ground shaking results. Wouldn’t that idea make a more interesting book as well as being a better message for young people?
Do you agree? Are these themes misguided?