The Novel: Tough Topics

Progress continues, full steam ahead! We have written 31 total scenes now, and we started doing some compilation and review work. I’ve also been doing some more research and thinking in general about this book.

Our book deals with some heavy themes, so I’ve been reading some of the most popular YA books from 2017 to get a feel for how certain topics are being handled. I haven’t read YA in such a long time. Honestly, I can’t say that I remember reading YA when I was in the target age. I seemed to skip from Anne of Green Gables and Trixie Belden when I was in middle school right to Stephen King and other very adult books in high school. 

Then I started thinking about books I read in elementary school. Of course I read Babysitter’s Club and Little House on the Prairie, but then there was a whole string of books that for some odd reason featured paraplegics. Heidi, Secret Garden (kind of), Pollyanna. What was the obsession of losing the ability to use one’s legs? That seems to be the worst thing those authors could have imagined to befall a child under ten and still have a book with subject matter that was palatable for its intended audience…and their parents.

But there was one terrifying book that haunted my daydreams for years: Where the Red Fern Grows. In one scene, there are dogs fighting, one dog literally ripping the other’s guts out. One boy is beating the protagonist to death but sees his dog getting destroyed by the protagonist’s dog, so runs with an ax to hack the stronger dog to bits. But on his way, he trips and the ax ends up in his own gut and this big bubble of blood comes out of his mouth while the other boy watches him die. It was truly grotesque. I shudder to think of it even now.

Stephen King’s books contained much more violence and gore and assault and horror than that, but I realized in writing this post that I can pull no concrete images from those books to mind, other than Carrie’s head covered in pig’s blood and some buildings on fire in Firestarter. I think it must have been the age at which I read about poor Rubin and the dogs that affected me so much.

 So, while it was hard for me at first to get a pulse on whether the topics we are writing about are acceptable, or whether they would be deemed to controversial or sensitive for a publisher to want to look at, based on what is out there, I’d say I have no cause for concern that our book would get rejected. High schoolers today are really grown up and no doubt many who will see our book have, unfortunately, lived through the subjects we are writing about.

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