This year I am trying to read many best selling YA novels. For the most part, these are not Christian books, but they are what captivates today’s teen reader.
My goal as an author is to write equally captivating books that give hope and real answers. Not pat answers. Not cardboard answers. Book that have real characters with real struggles. Not one dimensional characters.
I’ve noticed that many of the books I am reading have to do with death. I Was Here is no exception. Like All the Bright Places and 13 Reasons Why, it was about suicide.
Here’s Amazon’s summary of it:
When her best friend, Meg, commits suicide by drinking a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how did she miss the signs of Meg's depression? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, and some secrets of his own. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.
Since they covered the highlights, I’m going to jump in with what I think are the good and bad points of the book.
The good points:
- The book tackles the tough topics of depression and suicide
- The characters are well developed
- Cody and Ben go to church and the book includes the sermon
My problems with the book:
- A megagob of swearing including the f-word
- Sex between two teens and references to other times
- No hope of an afterlife is given other than someone saying that if there was an afterlife and you didn’t like it, you could just kill yourself again
I think the Christian market is sadly lacking in good books that deal with real issues. Ones that captivate the readers the way this one and others in the secular market do. This blog is for teens, but I have authors of YA fiction who read it, so my challenge to you is to fill in the gaps in Christian fiction.
Teen suicide is a major problem, the third leading cause of death for youth ages 15-24. And it’s estimated that for every successful suicide attempt, there are 15 failed attempts.
Kid’s Health has a good article on teen suicide HERE
I guess my question is, why are so many teens attempting to end their lives? The article lists these factors:
Young people with mental health problems — such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or insomnia — are at higher risk for suicidal thoughts. Teens going through major life changes (parents' divorce, moving, a parent leaving home due to military service or parental separation, financial changes) and those who are victims of bullying are at greater risk of suicidal thoughts.
Factors that increase the risk of suicide among teens include:
· a psychological disorder, especially depression, bipolar disorder, and alcohol and drug use (in fact, about 95% of people who die by suicide have a psychological disorder at the time of death)
· feelings of distress, irritability, or agitation
· feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness that often accompany depression
· a previous suicide attempt
· a family history of depression or suicide
· emotional, physical, or sexual abuse
· lack of a support network, poor relationships with parents or peers, and feelings of social isolation
· dealing with bisexuality or homosexuality in an unsupportive family or community or hostile school environment
That being the case, it sounds like we need to get some programs in place for teens and make counseling more easily accessible.
I think we also need more books about teens who look at the odds and the things stacked against them, struggle with it , and then find positive—and realistic—solutions.
Can anyone suggest books like that?
Teens--what do you look for in a book? What new book would you like to see written? What subjects should Christian authors write about?