Monday, July 30, 2012

Teen and YA: Adults Are Not the Enemy (writing)

I mentioned in last Thursday's post that Maximum Ride is very anti-adult. This isn't uncommon and I can list quite a few stories:

Darkest Powers series and Darkness Rising series by Kelly Armstrong.
House of Night series by P.C. Cast
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (that's a different case though)
Worldshaker by Richard Harland
Maximum Ride series by James Patterson
Witch and Wizard series by James Patterson

It's not always the same rebellion, but it comes down to some rather specific themes: adults don't believe kids, adults are evil and, in some of the most dramatic cases, adults are stupid.

These are also some pretty popular books, heck I own all of them and have thoroughly enjoyed most of them. Yes, while adults make for a good barrier against what the teenaged main character is trying to get past sometimes, that doesn't mean that all adults are the enemy.

When you hit 18 you won't be able to see why
 kids love it either.
Think about the book, not the story, but the book itself. We've got a major anti-adult rebel teenager story, okay. An adult wrote that book, an adult edited that book, a company of adults published that book, adults are buying it with their adult money they earned at adult jobs. Even if you're a kid and you're buying it with your own money, where did that money come from? Whether it's your parents allowance, or your own job (working for and with adults I assume) it's still adult-oriented.

What happens when you grow up and become an adult? According to those stories, you are now the enemy. How would that make you feel? Do you want your kids to hate you? What if you're a teacher? Do you want an entire classroom of kids to think you're the enemy?

Of course not.

Yes, it's okay to have the occasional badguy/obstacle adult. Many YA/teen books are about growing up and becoming your own person, and much of that is usually forming your own thoughts and opinions separate from the adults you know and grew up with and becoming an adult yourself.

Some books have a good mesh:

Unearthly series by Cynthia Hand
Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan

These two series in particular have adults that play big roles and are nearly main characters themselves. Those adults are there to help and mentor the main characters. Teens don't know everything, so when the teen comes along and has no idea what they are doing, the adult is there to help and guide them. Sounds more like real life.

Yes, there are adult badguys in those stories too, and that's real in its own way too because when you're an adult you're going to find adults that don't agree with you or don't like you. That's part of being an adult.

When I set out to write Dusted I decided right from the start "Adults are not the enemy." I knew Crystal (the main character) and her friends were going to have to keep secrets from their parents, and their parents would be difficult sometimes, but that didn't make them evil or an enemy of any kind. At some point Crystal and the others are antagonized by a group consisting of adults, but that's only because the group has their own thoughts and feelings about the situation. Does that make them evil? No. Does that mean they're opposed to Crystal's group and their attitude? Yes. Will that cause strive? Of course.

Adults, like teens, kids, and everyone else, come in a wide spectrum. You've got your badguys but you've also got mentors, and who made the rule that teens can't have adults as friends?

So, if you're a teen reading these stories about how dumb or incompetent or outright careless and evil the adults are being, keep in mind that one day you'll be an adult too, and is that how you want the next generation to see you?

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