I believe that if you don’t engage with darkness, you’re leaving a teen alone to face it by themselves. I think THAT’s the amoral position.
— Patrick Ness (@Patrick_Ness) July 9, 2013
So Patrick Ness was being awesome earlier, and it reminded me to tell you about what I did last week.
Last Tuesday, I taught my first ever class, some straightforward techniques I use for creating monsters to some 16-18 year olds. Early on, I asked them: ‘what’s the one thing all monsters have in common?’
‘They’re scary’ they replied.
Damn right they were, they blew me away.
I’m not going to tell you what their monsters were, after all they’re their monsters, it’s them holding their reins, not me – but they touched on loneliness, social exclusion, surveillance, darkness, obsession, grief and lord knows how many other things. The monsters in our stories are maps of our hearts. They show us what we’re afraid of, and if we’re lucky, they can even show us why.
So why were these young men and women such splendid spawners of the unnerving? Because they were scarred? or twisted? Or had been exposed to too many dark and violent narratives? Hell, and indeed, no.
They could do it because their lives involve darkness the same way they do school and TV and love and music. Their lives are big, complicated things, and these teenagers were big and complicated enough to encompass that.
Children’s publishing includes YA publishing. The books this gentleman is criticising were published for teens. Teens who are people: smart and confused, silly and deep and dangerous and sensible and scared and brave and need stories that speak to all of that. They’re young people, sure, but you don’t respect the ‘young’ part by ignoring the ‘people’ part.
BTW, if you’re heading over to that article and you comment, do me a favour and be nice, ok? At the moment the discussion on this has been really cool and civil, it would be ace if it stayed that way.