As an unabashed YA fan, I am very amused by the #MorallyComplicatedYA tag blowing up on twitter. The backstory is John Bergstrom wrote a book and got a six figure deal, and in the article on Publishers Weekly announcing the deal, said some very boneheaded things, such as:
“The morality of the book is more complicated than a lot of YA so I wanted to try doing it on my own,” Bergstrom said. “In a lot of YA, the conflict takes place inside a walled garden, set up by outside adult forces. If you think of those stories as a metaphor for high school, they start to make a lot more sense, but that was one thing I wanted to depart from.”
Anybody who’s been reading YA for the past however long knows this is patently untrue. Moral complexity is a defining characteristic of the genre because good YA is all about exploring Erickson’s identity vs. role confusion, which almost inherently leads to character’s dealing with morally gray situations. The Hunger Game’s dig (ETA: not said by the author) at the end of the article is probably the most confusing, as it seems to contradict itself:
“Kicking butt to save your dad is actually a lot easier for me to swallow than kids killing kids in The Hunger Games.”
Because right, the reason kids killing kids is so hard to swallow is precisely because of the morally ambigous way it’s presented. And yes, a lot of this marketing is hyperbolic fluff designed to get the book talked about, but the question is by who? The target audience of teens is unlikely to see this and the viral nature of this means twitter is having fun shredding a book whose discription is:
Bergstrom’s heroine is Gwendolyn Bloom, a Jewish, slightly overweight 17-year-old, who is transformed into a “lean warrior with hair dyed fire-engine red,” during her mission to rescue her father, a kidnapped diplomat. Her search takes her into Europe’s most dangerous slums, and into contact with gangsters, spies, and arms dealers.
I’ve already read this book, done really brilliantly by authors who respect the genre and the reader and don’t think an image change equals character growth. So why should I read this?