Guest Post: Jennifer Brown

Your books cover some serious, hard hitting issues. Are there any topics that you consider “off limits” for YA books? Where would you draw the line?

I think teens today are a pretty sophisticated bunch. They’re not as sheltered as we were when I was a teen. That, combined with the constant media barrage that they get all day, every day, means they’re aware of, think about, worry over, and deal with very tough topics on a daily basis. Writing books that speak to those topics—creating teen characters that are in tough situations that real teens face every day, and then getting those characters out of those situations—is a good thing. School shootings won’t stop existing if I don’t write about them. Abusive boyfriends won’t stop being abusive if we just pretend it’s not happening. Those things will still exist in teens’ lives, and writing about them could give teens a new perspective on a topic that may already be on their minds. So in my opinion, writing books on serious, hard-hitting issues gets teens thinking and talking in terms of solutions, which I think is cool and empowering. And important.

I’m not sure if there are too many topics I would shy away from. But a line that I definitely draw is writing something that would in some way “glamorize” or “glorify” terrible circumstances. It was very important for me, for example, to make sure Nick’s shooting in Hate List did not appear to be in any way justified. I would never want to make school shootings…or dating violence…or molestation…or rape…or murder…or suicide…or eating disorders…or incest…or any behaviors along those lines look like a good, or sexy, idea. Any story that would glorify any of those things would be, in my opinion, crossing a line.

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