So, today I want to talk about issues, and issue books, and teenage issues, and most of all, how books get labelled. I guess my main point is to discuss my issues with the unofficial category of "issue book" and the book that I'm giving away today, Faking Normal, will be labelled and issue book by some. But I think that it's much more than that.
So what is my problem with issue books? Realistic YA is populated by teens who are coming of age. Therefore, they have issues. Have you been through puberty? Then you experienced a few issues. The teen years are huge developmentally, it's one of the reasons they offer writers such a wealth of opportunity.
But a teenager is not simply an issue, and therefore a (well-developed) teenage character is far more than just someone dealing with an issue.
The After-School Specials of Literature
To be fair, most of our teen audience will not understand the implications of calling issue books the after school specials of literature- sappy, over the top, and moral driven…that's what is suggested by after school special, and it's often implied by issue books. But teen readers are past reading for morals and most of the books that are categorized as issue books are so much more than that.
There Can Only Be One
Another fault with issue books is that people have the misconception that there can only be one, that the "best" book is the one every library and bookstore should have, and after you've read it or stocked it, you don't have to worry about that issue anymore. We'll take suicide as an example. Certainly a pertinent issue, and one that's touched countless teen lives. 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher is by far the most popular and influential book that tackles the issue of suicide. But it isn't the only one, and it shouldn't be the only one. Readers may also enjoy The Program by Suzanne Young, 34 Pieces of You by Carmen Rodrigues, or countless other books. We can't throw out all the books that touch on this important topic because we 'already have one'.
Literature for Teens should be
I'm going to revise the above statement to Literature for Teens should be Engrossing. Teens are past being babied, they are learning about the real world. They want to know about real issues, and want them presented in interesting ways. All books have conflict. In contemporary realistic fiction, the conflicts center around coming of age and teen issues. But they are more than that. These books are stories that should resonate, entertain, force you to turn the pages, and stay with you long after you read them.
I'm going to end this post by saying that I'm not going to review Faking Normal. I'm just going to tell you that whether you win an ARC from us, or just have to go buy it at your local bookstore, you want this book. I read it months ago and am still thinking about it.
The contest- I'm not difficult- discuss my topic of issue books--or if it's been a tough week and you don't even want to do have a discussion-- just tell me how much you want this ARC. I'll randomly draw a name, and someone will win the book! If you could leave your email in the comments that would be awesomely helpful!