Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Morally Complicated YA - or the supposed lack of...

I haven't been around online much lately - mainly because I've been busy applying for new jobs and trying to do bits and pieces to the house when I can. Also, since the clocks went back, it's pretty much dark when I get home from work, so all I want to do is curl up in a blanket and read/sleep (which is what's mainly been happening if I'm completely honest). The lovely Murees Dupe sent me some great articles about using social media the other night, and they said about how you shouldn't feel forced to post something to social media - it should be something you enjoy, and you should only post when you've got something to share/say. Which is the principle I've been trying to live by (it's not just me being lazy, oh no...ahem...)

However, tonight I have something to say.

I saw this hashtag on Twitter yesterday: #MorallyComplicatedYA - at first, I didn't pay much attention as I was busy making supper, so I made a mental note to check it out later and then promptly forgot. However, when I got back from work today I decided to check out Twitter and the hashtag popped up again, this time with a photo:

(Thanks go to Diana Urban for taking this screenshot)

I read the excerpt in the photo (because I'm one of those people that'll look at every photo on Twitter, no matter what) and then I realised I needed to do some more digging. What was this book? Did I miss something? Well, actually, yes, it turns out I did.

I won't bore you with the whole details of what I found out (i.e. I Twitter-stalked a lot of YA authors until I found the cause of the problem - no, I'm not weird, honest...cough cough...) but here's the Publisher's Weekly article I finally found, which is the one that everyone was referencing in their increasingly angry tweets:

I'm fuming. Normally, I try to steer clear of Twitter arguments and I'll just seethe quietly in a corner until I get over it. But I don't know if maybe I'm just tired from work and I don't have the patience to deal with any more bullshit or what, but tonight, reading this news just made me so angry, that I had to write about it. 

I don't know if I've ever read such a condescending load of crap. 'The morality of the book is more complicated than a lot of YA so I wanted to try doing it on my own' - my eyebrows nearly shot off my forehead when I read that line. I'm not saying that YA doesn't have it's problems, or that there are YA books that aren't up to scratch - every genre has books like that. Are there YA books I don't like because of the main character, or a weak plot or weak writing? Of course! Just like there are are chick-lit books that I both like and dislike, or fantasy books that I love or hate. But equally there are hundreds of YA books that I absolutely adore - and if it wasn't for YA, I sure as hell wouldn't be an author right now. I just cannot believe that this guy is taking the liberty of tarring every YA book with the same brush - not every YA book is Twilight, or the Hunger Games, or Divergent. The depth and breadth of YA out there is simply breathtaking - no matter what your tastes, you're pretty much guaranteed to find a YA book to suit you. And yet, Bergstrom is strutting around like he's invented the wheel. Um, I think you'll find there's literally hundreds, if not thousands, of 'morally complicated YA' books out there long before you came along, my friend (Flowers in the Attic, anyone?)

My other favourite quote is this one: 'Kicking butt to save your dad is actually a lot easier for me to swallow than kids killing kids in The Hunger Games.' Ahh yes, because kids killing kids isn't morally complicated at all. It's not like The Hunger Games kickstarted a massive debate about our modern day culture of watching reality TV, and how much we can really be desensitised to the idea of war. All violence, no matter what the situation, or in what medium we read or learn about it, is going to be morally complicated in some shape or form. To dismiss all other YA books as being somehow less important than his own book is incredibly insulting. 

And yet, you know what really angers me? The fact that if you read the sample chapter of his work, it's so glaringly obvious that he's never bothered to research his target audience once. It's almost like he's heard that YA books 'must include X,Y, Z' in order to be successful and so he's crammed as many of those tropes into his work as possible. Where's the originality? Where's his unique writing style? There's absolutely nothing that I've read in his work that makes him stand out - to me at any rate. I don't know - maybe because I'm a YA author, I clearly have no clue what I'm talking about? You know, seeing as how YA authors can't possibly understand how complicated the issue of morality can be (I'm looking at you, Suzanne Collins).

Shame of Bergstrom for thinking he's a million times better than all of the other amazing YA authors out there. But even more, shame on the publishers for accepting it. There's so many talented YA authors out there, whether they've self-published or posted their work on Wattpad or on their blogs, that deserved to be recognised for all their hard work and dedication to the genre. These are the authors who can only dream of the success that Bergstrom has acheived  - and yet, mainstream publishers seem to think that if they stick to what they know, they'll make far more money than taking a chance on authors that actually have an original voice. It just makes me sad. 

Publishers - you have the power to change things like this. The future of YA is literally in your hands - take a chance on authors who DO write 'morally complicated YA' (i.e. a very large majority of them). Readers - you deserve so much more than this drivel to read. If you want recommendations for actual 'morally complicated YA', I strongly recommend you search for the hashtag on Twitter - there's hundreds of fabulous recommendations that I simply can't list all on here. And my dear fellow authors - keep doing what you're doing, and don't let condescending people hold you down. I love you all, but also, remember - don't write a book in a specific genre and then shit all over the genre you're supposedly writing for. It's just not cool.

What do you think of the #MorallyComplicatedYA debate? Is everyone overreacting? What do you think about the selection of YA books available?


  1. You go girl! Get your frustration out. The YA genre is doing well, because they have so much diversity in this genre. There is something for everyone. About that dude dissing the YA genre and writers, that's not cool at all. Usually the writing community frowns upon such behavior and doors close for you in the industry. Can't believe he's getting away with it. Don't let this guy get to you. Keep doing what you're doing.

    1. Haha, thanks Murees! I think I was just a little overtired when I wrote this post ;). I don't think he'll survive for very long with that attitude. But he's just made me more determined to succeed in my own writing :)

  2. Ugh. Sounds to me like someone has had a taste of success and now is too big for his britches! You want to see nice, humble people succeed... I'll do my part and not read his book, but it sounds like this is another of those "The Girl on the Train" type books, where somehow they push word-of-mouth out there so people start buying it.

    1. Exactly, Stephanie! Yeah, that's what I thought too...I'm getting a little bit irritated with just a chosen few books getting all this attention, but when it comes down to it, they're not even very good - that's why I rarely read over-hyped books anymore!

  3. Meh it sounds to me like a case of someone talking out of his arse to make some sort of point for publicity. It's a tale as old as the publishing industry, I think.

    1. Laughing out loud at your comment, Misha! You're so right - it probably is all about the publicity. Such a shame, as there's no need to resort to those kinds of tactics to sell a book!


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