Discussion Planned: Violence in YA Literature

If you read my post on March 26th, you know I was having a dilemma. You’ll be happy to know I’ve resolved it, thanks in part to all the wonderful advice I received!

I will be hosting an interview with YA author Cindy M. Hogan on Thursday, April 26th. We’ll discuss her writing, as well as the use of violence in YA literature. What I would like from you, my dear readers, is for you to gather up any questions you might have relating to violence in YA and come prepared. She has said she’ll be more than willing to discuss the topic, as well as answer your questions at the day, so think up some good ones! In fact, I’ve you’d like to leave any questions you might have as comments on this post, I will try to work them into the interview.

And since we’re discussing violence in YA literature, I might as well give you my two cents worth.

I’ve always had a highly active imagination, great for being a writer, not so great when you’re an impressionable teen prone to nightmares. I think that teens are often more mature than we give them credit for, but as far as violence in YA books, I think that the description of violent acts should not be gratuitous. If you must include violence in your story, if it’s necessary to the plot line, than do so, but try to soften it a little. Remember, YA is NOT intended for adults, no matter how grown up teens might think they are. Keep the gory, blow-by-blow descriptions, for your adult books, please.

I also think that our society is so awash in violence in all its forms that we’re becoming immune to it. As a culture, we no longer respond to violent acts with as much shock and horror as we once would have, and with each generation, this lack of response is getting worse.

As writers, we hold a power that many people do not. The words we write may very well influence the teen who is reading them, for better or for worse. I’m not saying that you should preach, dumb down your story, etc. I am only saying that you should think about what your write. Make it the best it can. Hone your craft. There are many writers out there that successfully paint scenes that can be construed as violent without resorting to graphic imagery.

If you’re a YA writer, then you are shaping young minds. This is something that we, as writers, should never forget.


5 thoughts on “Discussion Planned: Violence in YA Literature

  1. Being a YA Supernatural Horror writer, this is something I think about a lot and I do try not to be too gory or to force teens to look into some things better left unseen. Great discussion.

  2. I completely agree with you! It is always something I think about when writing for this age group. As someone who works with middle- and high-school kids for my day job, I know they see a lot of violence on TV and in video games. It was an issue with my kids growing up, that they not be exposed to graphic violence until they were adults and could choose their own games/movies. Also, it is not something I explore in-depth in my stories. Yes, there is death, but never the limb-ripping gory stuff. That is not my style. Since I deal with historical events, death was inevitable in the 19th century, so most of what I describe was health-related – no zombie attacks! 🙂

    Years ago, I wrote an S/F novel that I had intended for an adult audience but thought it might work best as YA. I had to re-work a couple of scenes like the one and only love-making scene in it. The scene where the girl was describing her mother’s rape, I edited and only suggested the violence by removing a lot of the details.

    I’d be very interested to see what your guest will say on the subject, especially in light of what I’ve heard about ‘The Hunger Games’ and how the violence seems to be the prime subject of the story.

  3. I think there is a tasteful way to do it that reminds young people that violence is unfortunately part of our world, but its important that we are desensitized. The moment we forget its a real human getting hurt is the moment we lose compassion. As writers, we have the ability to humanize what movies and video games have glorified.

  4. I think that one of the problems is the fact that adults seem to have this default us and them mentality. The ‘back in my day’ time was actually full of violence as well. Maybe not as much street crime as now, but violence still occurred whether it was domestic or rioting or whatever, the point is it still existed. Nowadays they want to pretend that it was all nice and dandy and teenagers are just overly violent from the media and what not, which to a certain extent is probably true, but what some parents need to realize is that while ‘normalizing’ violence certainly isn’t good, pretending it doesn’t exist is just as bad.

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