Last Week’s Discussion:
Violence in Fiction
I haven’t read that many books, at least not compared to many readers and book bloggers out there and yet I’ve still read about a lot of violence in YA fiction. It can be sudden, off-putting, gut-wrenching, and disgusting. It is often disturbing. It can leave a reader emotionally scarred if they are too young or unprepared for what’s about to happen. So, I had to ask: should violence be allowed in YA fiction? And the discussioners answered in kind!
“I think violence does have a place in YA because whether we want to admit it or not, it happens and books (at least somewhat) mirror reality. However, I hate when authors add some sort of traumatic violence to a story just to have it but it has nothing to do with the plot.
It really pissed me off to read [two attempted rape scenes in a very popular fantasy series] because it was so out of place that if someone were a sexual assault victim they would have been completely unprepared and very disturbed by it.”
“I think there is definitely a place for violence in YA. [I was] completely unprepared for the thing my friends and I went through. Reading and talking about the issues in YA helped us work through a lot of it.
I would also add that, in cases of self violence particularly, the recovery from these violences has to be realistic. It doesn’t do anyone any good to see characters suffer violence, only to be magically all better 3 chapters later. The recovery can sometimes be messy and hard, and I think readers need to see it portrayed realistically so they know they’re not alone.”
“I think that violence does have a place in YA as long as it has something to do with the plot. […] Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, take[s] sexual assault and show[s] it in a way that a person picking up that book can learn from.
I think that Sarah Dessen’s Dreamland’s domestic violence element has the same effect at Speak. Sarah Dessen is known for writing cute romance stories, and Dreamland starts that way but gets scary very quickly. Having a book like this written by someone who writes such well loved and widely read books write about domestic violence may help someone who finds themselves in a similar situation without realizing it.”
“I agree with many of the peeps above in that violence can have a place in YA fiction, as long as its role is justified and that it is not gratuitous. If the same story and message can be conveyed without describing the violent scene in detail, then that description should be left out. […] I believe that violence should be described sparingly and only when necessary to convey an emotional impact on a character.”
“[…] I expect (and write) pretty brutal violence in the books I enjoy because I read a lot of historical fiction and that type of violence was true to the time periods. But I don’t want my eleven year old niece reading about that same stuff in her YA books.
Should her books contain some violence? Probably. But age and context appropriate. It might be a bully beating up a kid at school or the superhero pummeling the villain. But I don’t see a need for these young people to yet be exposed to the really BAD stuff… there’s time enough for that when they adult.”
“Violence in YA fiction, yes, if as you state Melanie, it is relevant. I know a couple of authors who write YA fiction, but neither like the classification; they just write stories that happen to have a particular audience age range. I’m currently working on a piece that could be classed as YA in which one of the 2 protagonists kills someone, it reveals something about the character, it changes their nature and adds to the readers concern for this persons safety (I hope). Too many writers are just adding a gore factor, which is just lazy writing.”
“Of course there has to be conflict or there is no story. The amount of violence, though, needs to match the target audience and the genre. It should be used in moderation to further the story. It should be as “un-graphic” as possible to further the story. If there is a reason in the story line to give a gory, detailed description of someone being decapitated, then do it. Don’t do it just to add blood. Everything should be there to add to the story and move it forward.”
“How much graphic violence is too graphic, though? Gore and super graphic violence should be reserved for adult novels. Sexual violence is rather strong, though I think a toned down version of it can be introduced in YA because teenagers and young adults are at the age to be more aware of sexuality and are curious enough. Rather than the actual deed though, I’d say the emotional impact is more important, and it’s also a question of whether the violent scene is required to push the story forward or not.”
It would seem I’m not alone in my opinion of allowing violence in fiction, particularly YA fiction, but there are some obvious boundaries and limitations we need to implement because of the age of the target audience. Authors have a responsibility to both entertain, educate, and protect their readers. Yet, while we are making strides on the second one, we’re still missing the last piece, which is why next week we’re gonna talk about trigger warnings! If violence is going to be allowed, then readers need to be warned. Not everyone likes the same things nor want to read about violence and shouldn’t be blindsided while reading as it can cause severe emotional damage.
Check out this week’s discussion on Thursday at 10am EST: