Christian YA fiction is increasingly important to publishers as it offers something many teens are searching for but failing to find in the wider marketplace. Fantasy and real-life issues are popular with Christian teenage readers. Melody Carlson’s Diary of a Teenage Girl spurned a series of sixteen books and she has written a total of 80 books for teens so far. ‘“The difference is that I was willing to write really edgy stuff, to get inside the skin of a teenager,” says Carlson, who has written on topics such as cutting, alcohol abuse, school shootings, eating disorders, and body image. “If the girls themselves aren’t into these things, they know someone who is”’ (Byle, 2012). Publishers of Christian books for teens face difficulties with this, finding “it’s a fine line between addressing real-life issues important to teens and drawing the ire of parents and other adults who want to protect children from unnecessary or immoderate violence, sex, or adult situations” (Byle, 2012).
One of the things many Christian authors want to offer in their books is hope. Rejecting the hopelessness and dystopian of books like The Hunger Games, Richard Paul Evans created his Michael Vey series and believes even booksellers are desperate for material that offers an alternative to the darkness filling the shelves in the YA section. He wants his books to empower youth, to show a “true battle of good vs. evil” (Byle, 2012), to demonstrate that kids can have a good relationship with their parents, that adults are not all idiots and that “all of us have the power within us to accomplish good” (Byle, 2012).
“Christian teens aren’t all that different from teens shopping in the general market. They are drawn to stories with high stakes and a lot of action, whether in the real world or in a fantasy world,” says Hutton. “But they also enjoy stories that help them understand some of the issues they face on a daily basis. The Christian story and faith so easily lend themselves to what is popular in the general market—the ultimate fight of good vs. evil, uncertainty in trying to figure out who you are, and how to handle the issues they face.” (Byle, 2012)
So what is the future for Christian YA fiction? Byle suggests both authors and publishers think the market is expanding but recognise that a big thing is giving readers what they want to read. ‘Says Carlson, “I’m trying to offer clean, realistic truth—with consequences to [characters’] actions. I keep an eye on the trends and give my readers stories they want to read but with a spiritual element”’ (Byle, 2012).“The biggest question we all face is how far we can go with YA. We have to be true to our Christian values and mission, but we know what the kids are seeing in the media, in film, and in books” (Byle, 2012).
“Prolific YA author Carlson says she’s experimenting with a series of books for teens that will be available only as e-books. David C. Cook is in the midst of what Pape calls the digital discussion, prompted by strong growth in e-books in both YA and adult fiction. Authors such as Brouwer, with WaterBrook Multnomah, are connecting with eager readers via online sites and social marketing tools” (Byle, 2012).
Adults as well as teens read and love YA novels. Peterson explores this in her article in Christianity Today. Although some have criticized adult’s facination with YA literature as indicating our immaturity, Peterson argues one reason we love this genre is that it provides a means by which we can revisit a time of greater innocence. She says, “reading about these protagonists takes us back to when we encountered our own brokenness and the brokenness of the world for the first time and we’re reminded that as adults, we still carry that vulnerability” (Peterson, 2014). Very simply “it reminds us of some things we have lost, both as grown-ups and as a culture” (Peterson, 2014).
Perhaps that’s the real reason sales of YA Christian novels are increasing. Yes, they broach difficult subjects pertinent to Christian youth in a way they can relate to. Yes, they affirm them and encourage them in their own lives and faith and give them hope and direction. And yes, they enable us as adults to relive moments in our own lives when we too had to make life-changing decisions with life-changing consequences and the moment before these decisions have an innocence and purity we long to recapture, if only for a moment, lost in a book.
Byle, A. August 24 2012. Religion Update Fall 2012: Christian YA Fiction Coming into full bloom. Publishers Weekly. Retreived on November 1, 2014 from http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/new-titles/adult-announcements/article/53700-religion-update-fall-2012-christian-ya-fiction-coming-into-full-bloom.html
Graham, R. June 23, 2010. Are You There, God? How Christian YA novels are offering a surprisingly empowering guide to adolescence. Slate. Retrieved on November 1, 2014 from http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2010/06/are_you_there_god.html?wpisrc=newsletter
Peterson, C. October 10, 2014. The Deeper Draw of YA. Christianity Today. Retrieved November 1, 2014 from http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2014/october/deeper-draw-of-ya-.html?paging=off
Michael Vey. Richard Paul Evans. 2013. http://michaelvey.com/