Mama, Mama, put me to bed
I won't make it home, I'm already half~dead.
I met an invalid, & fell for his art
He showed me his smile, & went straight for my heart. ~Delirium~ Lauren Oliver Chapter 7.
Once upon a time, in the long ago, I worked as a children's librarian. It was one of the better jobs I've held ~ & if I didn't actually have to become a librarian to do it I'd probably be doing it still but librarianship, like so much else, has got very high tech & complicated & about things other than good books. Councils like to see a return for their money& let's face it; I'm a literary snob. Rows & rows of Mills & Boone don't do it for me & it is really hard to smile politely when you are wondering inside how the heck people can read that trash?
Amongst other things I did the cataloguing ~ which sounds impressive but is really simple though initially I was only doing fiction & anyone who knows their ABCs can catalogue fiction. One hardly needs a NASA degree to put things in alphabetical order. At the time our Children's Librarian had just done her YA fiction buy & my job was to skim read all the new titles, write a short synopsis for the catalogue card & catalogue the book. In my months there I cleared the shelves ~ & moved on to non fiction though only a general cataloguing because non~fiction is a very specific science.
As a writer I like to write for the YA market & this is why: far more than adults, teenagers are prepared to grapple with & think about difficult issues. Yes, a huge generalisation but on the whole adults are settled in their ways of thinking in ways young adults are not. They are still exploring different ways to be & what that means, so the YA market is one of the hardest markets to write for as well as being one of the most rewarding. And like any market it has its fair share of absolute trash.
However the difficult thing I think for many parents is negotiating the sometimes treacherous waters of the YA genre which does tend to deal with issues of violence, suicide, isolation, & anti~social behaviours. I do not necessarily think this is a bad thing & the reason for that is quite simple: Very few of the books hold negative behaviours up as an example to be followed. Rather like the bible really. Lets face it, a good many bible stories are cautionary tales: Samson; David: Saul; Esau....long, long list of people who really blew it one way or another. So it is with much in YA fiction.
Secondly, one of the more interesting devices many authors use is to take a classic or two & "rewrite" it for the teen market. My example is the book my household is reading just now: Delirium by Lauren Oliver. This was lent to Liddy, who agreed to lend it to Star & was snavelled by moi! I read faster than Star so will beat her to the end.
Now there are things that will put this book on the no go list for some Christians. There is some bad language, not much & carefully used but it is there. The protagonists do some things that taken out of context are just wrong: lying, disobedience, rebellion. There is some sexual exploration ~ nothing graphic & nothing I found offensive but it is there. Just so you know.
That said I find this to be a really excellent book & have not objected to my girls reading it. Liddy is 22; Star not quite 16. Why? Firstly it is very well written. Secondly anyone at all who has read Romeo & Juliet or Orwell's 1984 will immediately draw the parallels with Delirium. I sense echos of other works as well but as these are works I haven't read I can't really comment. The scene is a futuristic society in which people have a mandatory operation at 18 that cures them of the *disease* of love. Naturally the main character, Lena, falls in love just before her operation is scheduled & her changing perceptions of right & wrong & who gets to choose & whether anyone has the right to choose for another person are the underlying dynamics of the novel.
This is a theme exceptionally well explored, for those who remember it, in A Clockwork Orange. [Not recommended unless you can handle being deeply distressed & disturbed] It is also, perhaps surprisingly, a biblical concept. God gave man free will, the ability to choose one's actions, one's allegiances, one's attitude & there is a strong mandate against witchcraft, for example, precisely because it interferes with people's free will & their ability to make uncoerced choices.
Delirium is not a particularly original novel. As I have noted it draws rather obviously on other works ~ works that many teens will not have read & thus it serves as an introduction to some of classical literature. It raises the question of civil disobedience. At what point is it right & just for an individual to defy their government? Their guardians? At what point is free expression outright anarchy?
I happen to think these are questions worth asking, ideas worth exploring ~ more & more so as we move further into the end times & our governments strive to impose more & more regulations on their populations, dumb people down through inferior education, control them economically. There is a point at which life is meaningless if it is an endless round of safety. People are funny that way. Being safe is not mandatory. People will risk their lives to climb Everest, stand at the Poles, walk on the moon ~ & there is a point at which every parent hopes their child will display the courage of their convictions. It is through literature our children can explore safely what it means when your world turns topsy~turvy & the choices you are called to make are no longer black & white but every shade of grey there is. This is where they ask: What do I think? How would I act? What would I choose?
Liddy, who is a very B&W thinker, very literal, found Delirium sad & hated the ending. I think Star, who is none of those things, will appreciate it. For me it was predictable & obvious from page one ~ but then I have read both the sources this book draws on! lol
I find it unfortunate that when it comes to literature Christians too often seem to work from a premise of fear rather than from one of courage. No, I am not advocating access to every trashy novel in the shops, but there are many excellent books around that explore difficult topics & I never noticed that God flinches from ugly truths. He faces them head on & deals with them. So should we ~ & we need to teach our children to do the same. As our children grow I have noticed that often the very things we sought to protect them from are the things God throws in their face to help them grow & so I look at literature as opportunities to grow, to explore, to discuss within relative safety.