1. I read this column with great interest, Kristi. You’ve said everything so well and give such great examples. I would like to add that the level of edginess also depends on your publishing house and what market they envision for your book. My editor asked me to take all the swear words out of my book (and these weren’t even f-bombs!) because she wants to go after the school library market. So it’s a combination of being true to yourself, true to your characters, and savvy about what your particular audience is looking for.

  2. Very good point, Helen!! Yes–a lot of it definitely depends on how your publisher plans to market your book. HAVEN is labeled grades 9 and up, whereas some Pulse titles are labeled grades 7 and up. There *is* a wide range within the YA market, but not necessarily such a wide range within each publishing house/imprint, if that makes any sense.

  3. I think I told you I listened to Gaiman being interviewed about Coraline and he said adults had a much bigger issue with it than kids. That was definitely true at our house. I love Gaiman, but I was horrified by the buttons for eyes thing. My daughter (I think she was 10 at the time) who had read it, was…so?
    Uh, yeah.
    I think as you age and know more about the bad that really is out there, your tolerance for reading about it goes down. With kids maybe it is a way to test the dark…if that makes sense.
    Great post!

  4. Kim McCollum

    Kristi ~ Super post! I am writing YA, and during every workshop/class/critique group in which I participate, I engage other writers in the discussion of “how much is too much?” Raw language, edgy situations, cultural & societal hotspots, etc. You and Gaiman ‘nailed’ what I have been hearing. Stay true to the story & characterizations and don’t try to ‘plan’ who may or may not buy/shelve the book. Oh, and I have discovered with Amazon’s reviewers that there is a concerted effort on the part of ultra-conservative parent groups to submit exceptionally negative reviews for practically anything that does not measure up to their particular standards & values. In fact, I have spent time reading these reviews for a variety of titles and have even found that many are simply “copy/paste” reviews from one book to the next. They are the same groups who are vigorously trying to remove books from school shelves nationally. Again, we writers have stories to tell, teens who want and need to read them, and a huge range of readers whom we can entertain. Can’t wait to read your novel!

  5. Kristi, this is excellent advice, and not just for Ya, but for all of us writers. I’m sure there is lots of concern when writing for a younger age group, but like Lori says, I imagine older folks are the ones who are more sensitive to it all. Made me stop and think; excellent post!

  6. Kim, that’s so disturbing about concerted efforts to “slam” certain books on Amazon based on content, but yeah, I’ve seen it, too. And they not just slam the books, but also the people who’ve read and liked the books (as in, “I can’t imagine what kind of horrible, perverted lives are led by all the people who gave this book 5 stars…”). But yep, I’m sure they’re the same people who want books like Laurie Halse Anderson’s SPEAK (a beautiful, important novel!) removed from library shelves.

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