The Problem with Darkness in YA

I actually didn't forget about this series and am continuing it???
Look at me all professional and stuff and not quitting something!

Other posts in this series:
-The Problem with Bad Boys
-The Problem with Grey Morality 

I actually like darker books. I like horror, psychological thrillers, crime etc. But I've noticed that a too real faux pas of reality and darkness has been becoming more and more prevalent in YA.

Now, do some teens struggle with drinking, drug abuse, peer-pressure, depression, or mental illnesses? Yes, of course.

Do some unfortunate teens suffer consequences for their actions? Also, a yes.

And I think a good way to address and spread awareness on issues such as these is through fiction, but I've noticed that so many books are missing the most important thing when it comes to darker themes: hope.

Listen, I know I can't speak for everyone, but as a teen, finding hope in books is so important.

Hope is important, light is important, being inspired is important, knowing that you aren't alone and you can get through whatever you're dealing with is important.

Now, I understand that some books aren't supposed to have happy endings, but not all of them need to be devoid of all hope, in fact, I think that sometimes a book hits harder when there is hope.

In the book Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock the story starts off with Leonard planning to kill himself, the book follows him through his day as he says goodbye to the few people he really cared about. This alone sounds dark, and it was. This book was gritty, painful, and blunt, but the ending is so full of hope, light, and love that it threw me off guard. The message of the book was that life can be worth living and that you are strong enough to keep living.

A Thousand Perfect Notes is a book about a boy with an abusive mother, and the theme of self-worth is also there.

These are two examples of darkness in books handled well.
I've read many books that glorify things like suicide, abuse, and a number of dark and gritty things.

Guys, these things aren't fun. They're very real and very scary, and not something that should be written about to just add a Thirteen Reasons Why edge to your book.

When I read books like these, the books feel empty, I feel empty.

Teens need hope, most of us are insecure and are struggling to make it through these years of changes, we need to know that it will be okay. We need to be able to be inspired to press on despite life's hurdles. We need to understand the beauty and the fragility of life, and I think that if we had more books that showed this that it would help so many teens who feel worthless or invisible.

Books don't always have to inspire or uplift, but in the end, darker books should have a purpose other than just being dark.

Does it make one think? Or does one put it down the same, or with an even worse mindset?

Dark books shouldn't be dark because it's the trend, or because the authors just want to be seen as edgy. There should be a purpose, because if not: what's the point?

If your book doesn't have a purpose, then really what is the point of writing it? 

Give us something real, not something hopeless.

What do you think about gritty themes in YA? 

Happy Writing,


Character Arcs // Why You Need Them and How to Start Writing Them

Let me just throw this rambling at you about a certain thing I see missing from YA novels time and time again:

Character arcs are SO important!!

Without them, the whole point of the story is meaningless. True, there are probably some exceptions (there are always exceptions), but overall stories would be empty if the character reached the end without learning anything.

Would The Lord of the Rings be as amazing and touching if Frodo returned to the Shire in the end and went back to being the plucky young hobbit he once was?

Would The Voyage of the Dawn Treader be as amazing if Eustace ending up not being redeemed and went on with his bullying ways to the very last page?  

I myself have changed so much over these years, and I haven’t even gone on a quest or led a worldwide rebellion against the government (yet)!

The first step to working towards your character’s arc is to give your characters flaws and shortcomings.

For example, one of my characters, Piper Anson, is a super optimistic happy-go-lucky teenage girl.

 Now, at first these aspects of her personality appear good, and in a way, they are, but along with being super optimistic, she’s also super unrealistic and na├»ve, even to the point of being selfish. 

Because of this, Piper leaves her brother who is suffering with depression and from being bullied to deal with their mom’s hospitalization alone in order to pursue a wild dream in hopes of earning money for her mom’s hospital bill. Obviously, this plan doesn’t work out like she thought, and she finds herself realizing the mistake she’s made.

Character flaws are easy to come up with, simply take the good things about your character’s personality and show the bad side to them.

Is your character super cheerful and spunky? They might also have a harder time empathizing with people and holding their tongue.

Are they super sweet and creative? They could also have problems socializing and feeling like they fit in.

Character traits are often paradoxes, there are pros and cons to everything, and showing this creates a more complex feeling to your plot, as well as making your characters feel like relatable human beings.

Getting back to character arcs, once you’ve established your character’s strength and weaknesses, consider what they need to learn in your story. At the end of their journey what about them has changed?

In the Hunger Games Katniss Everdeen realizes that she is weaker but simultaneously stronger than she thought, she also learns that humanity is a super important and fragile thing. 

In Nothing Left to Burn, Audrey learns that there is a difference between love and obsession and that the truth isn’t always as clear as she thought it was.

How has your story defined your character, how do they see themselves now? How has the changes in their lives affected their view on the world? How are their relationships now? And do they know something they didn’t know before?

The song I Know Things Now from Into the Woods illustrates this pretty well, in the song, Red Riding Hood sings about how she was deceived by the Wolf’s charms. “Nice is different than good,” she sings, showing that she has learned that there is a line between charming and authentic.

All in all, arcs are very significant, they add a sense of direction and satisfaction. 

How do you write character arcs?
What are some of your favorite arcs in fiction?
And what flaws do your characters have?