photo © 2010 Chris Willis | more info (via: Wylio)Last month while reading an article on diversity in ya fiction from the Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults, I stumbled upon an interesting issue. Although teen award-winners in many ways show excellent diversity, both these and teen best-sellers have a noticeable scarcity of religious protagonists. Religion is hardly rare among American teens, in fact, during the teen years it is common for involvement in one’s religion to increase as teens join youth groups and prepare for religious rites of passage, so the dearth of religious characters in YA fiction is a little odd. Teen books are notoriously blunt about confronting â€œtabooâ€ subjects, as recently and infamously demonstrated by the Wall Street Journal editorial, Darkness Too Visible, which kicked off the entire #yasaves explosion. So why are teen authors leery of dealing with religion? Do they feel it is somehow too sensitive â€“ more likely to offend than sex, drug use, and violence?
As a former religious teen (and a current religious adult) I can tell you that the treatment of religion in teen literature can be a minefield â€“ opening a book involving Catholic characters or issues, I always wondered if the author would get it “right,” or if they would insult and belittle the faith that meant so much to me. So now I am issuing a challenge to YA authors thinking of writing books involving religion: Do it! But do it right. Here are my four commandments for making religion in teen books work:
1. Thou shalt not use religion as a one-stop conflict shop.
One of my pet lit peeves is when religion is added to a book solely to raise the stakes of an already controversial situation. If the main character gets pregnant, make her parents traditional Muslims! Presto â€“ instant conflict! Continue reading Thou Shalt Not: Religion and Teen Books