What’s in your YA book?

by Jennifer Dyer

I love to read. As a fledgling writer, I churn through the pages of books, awed and  humbled at the intricate works so many authors pen.

However, I also stare open-mouthed at some of the fiction that crosses my threshold, especially from the Young Adult (YA) shelves of the library and bookstores.

In the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to catch up on some of the New York Times bestsellers in the YA market.

In addition to the all-to-common vampires, werewolves, witches, and various cross-breeds of the traditional paranormal casts, I’ve seen:

  • Explicit and erotic sexuality
  • Casual sex
  • Road trips to hell
  • Reincarnation
  • Characters who find out they are really a god/goddess
  • Murder
  • Wild parties: drinking both of alcohol and blood
  • Characters who call on the “sweet” name of Jesus, but are heavily involved in the occult
  • Blood–lots and lots of it
  • References to watching two teen boys together in a sexual sense as “totally hot”
  • Cheating death by taking part in rituals and/or becoming an evil being
  • Incestuous yearnings and relationships
  • An increase in the use of Nephilim as characters*

Yes, I see from the list that this looks a bit like some of the Greek tragedies I read in college. But those were tragedies, moral plays, and warnings for others. Most of the books I’ve read recently glorify and glamorize evil. Many authors are mixing pieces of Christianity in with mysticism, witchcraft, voodoo, astrology, reincarnation, and blatant Satanic rituals. Sometimes the characters learn to triumph over the bad guy, perhaps, but it is often through use of equally demonic means.

Lest you think I have become squeamish or a prude, I assure you I like speculative and paranormal fiction much more than the average person. (I often review YA and speculative fiction here and on my other blog.) But what I see all too often is a glorification of the demonic realm, something not to be taken lightly.

In Galatians 5:19-21Revelation 9:21 and Revelation 21:8, we are clearly warned to steer clear of sorcery, witchcraft, astrology, summoning demons, and sexual immorality. Yet, these books I’ve been skimming through are bestsellers. Read by children. So, who is buying these books that wrap this evil in a beautiful, glorious package? Libraries and parents, lots and lots of them.

I tell you this not to shame the entire YA genre. There are many, many wonderful books to be found in those shelves. But I urge you to beware of what lies in  between those beautiful covers.

*Nephilim are mentioned in Genesis 6:1-6 in the Bible as the offspring of the sons of God and daughters of men. Many people believe this means the children were fathered by angelic/demonic beings and mothered by human women–hence another superhuman member to our paranormal cast.

In YA fiction, Nephilim descendants often must come to terms with their demonic origins. Sometimes this is played out in a moral sense: choosing between good and evil. I’ve read some authors who have done this very well, beautifully in fact. Sometimes, though, the demonic world is portrayed as fascinating, a place to gain power over regular mortals.

What are some of the shocking subjects you have found in books?

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More good summer reads.

by Jennifer Dyer

Kevin McGill's upcoming Episode 2
Cover for Episode 2: When Boats Breathe and Cities Speak

Need good reads for your kids or kids at heart? Here are some more fun books:

Nikolas & Company. (Pictured above). A group of young orphans take the ride of their life and discover a magical world of adventure and danger in the past … and on the moon! Very fun premise for a story. Check out the website. It’s an amazing design. Your kids will love the graphics. Author Kevin McGill is currently giving away 1,000 copies of his books, too. “Take the ride.” :-) Check out his interview on the news!

Another great series of books is the Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth. This series is found in the Young Adult section, so it is more suited for 12 and up. Divergent takes place is post-apocalyptic dystopian Chicago. A world full of strife and tough decisions. At the age of 16 each child must choose whether to stay with his or her family and faction or chose a different life and never see loved ones again. I was hooked from page one, and bought the second book Insurgent as soon as I finished the last word of Divergent. A must read for fans of all ages (over 12…)!

Another great series for readers of all ages is The Land of Elyon by Patrick Carman. A synopsis is here. I have enjoyed the books in the series I have read. Looking forward to finishing the series. And the 39 Clues series I recommended yesterday is written by the same author. I am looking forward to reading more of his books.

For moms, aside from all the great fiction books, I recommend checking out Tracey Eyster’s upcoming book, Be the Mom. It will be available soon, but you can pre-order it. And you can answer the question: “Are you an eagle or a turkey?”

Linda wrote in about the Magic Tree House books, a fun adventure series for kids with a magical tree house that transports a brother and sister into history. Meet Mozart, Da Vinci and more…

What other books do you recommend?

Happy reading!

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Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising. Another good YA read

by Jennifer Dyer

Writer Kevin McGill of GuysCanRead.com recently lamented that decent male protagonists in the YA (young adult fiction) genre were becoming a rare commodity. Not so with Alex from Alex Van Helsing: Vampire Rising by Jason Henderson. Alex is a 14 year-old boy who gets sent to a boarding school in Switzerland after an “incident” at his last school. Soon after he arrives, he comes across a murderous creature in the woods and that is where the trouble starts. For the creature.

I enjoyed this read. Alex is a strong-willed, strong-minded individual who must chose whether or not to take up the Van Helsing family legacy. He has a strong sense of right and wrong and a good sense of humor. The book has very few curse words, hardly any adolescent angst, no sexual overtones, several incidents of well-dealt-with bullying, plenty (and I do mean plenty) of action, and (hurrah) a strong human protagonist. Good and evil are clear, and Alex is the kind of guy most of us would want to get behind in a fight. (Probably far behind, depending on your level of squemishness.) It was a good read from start to finish.

Spoiler alert: I was eeked out by one of the scenes in which Alex discovers a vampire soda fountain of sorts (caged humans being drained of their blood). Pretty gruesome. But this author definitely knows his vampire mythology (along with many other forms of evil mythological monsters). If this is your or your kid’s area of interest, check it out.

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Book review: Meg Cabot’s Ready or Not.

By Jennifer Dyer

I asked the librarian for some of her popular reads in the YA section and Ready or Not by Meg Cabot was one of her picks. As I know many parents are busy and don’t have time to pre-read everything out there, I thought it might be nice to know some of what is available in the YA section.

You may know the name Meg Cabot from her popular Princess Diaries books, which were made into those sweet Disney movies with Julie Andrews. Thinking the books would be like the Disney movies, I borrowed one of the library’s Princess Diaries on CD to listen to with my seven-year-old. Big mistake. In the opening paragraph Princess Mia complains about her period and that her mother is having sex with one of her high-school teachers. After I nearly wrecked the car ripping the CD out of the dash board, I realized that I needed to do a little more homework before I shared books with her.

As the title suggests, Ready or Not seems to be about coming of age and sexual awakening.

The main character has been in a serious dating relationship for several months and is trying to decide when to “Do It.” She misinterprets her boyfriend’s request to join his family on a weekend trip to mean that he is ready to take their relationship to higher sexual level.

In the midst of her angst about whether she is ready or not, she finds herself at a “life art” class where she must sketch a nude man. Her initial reaction is embarrassment. She has difficulty making the sketch look alive and bringing out the background. All this occurs while her boyfriend vacillates between his own drawing and staring at her boobs instead of her face when she talks, which she seems to find thrilling and empowering.

Throughout the book she has conversations about when to start “Doing It” and tries to ready herself for the big moment, including what kind of birth control to use. While at Camp David—did I mention her boyfriend is the president’s son and she sneaks into his bedroom under the President’s nose? Anyway, she sneaks into her boyfriend’s room and asks him when he is going to make his move. He is taken by surprise, as he didn’t have any intentions for a sexual rendezvous, but he happily accepts her “jumping his bones.”

In the final scenes of the book, the couple returns to their art class and drawing the nude male model. This time the main character has no problems making the sketch a complete blend of background and detail. She seems to have shed her childhood embarrassment and innocence and awakened a new sense of maturity. While sketching, she remunerates on her fears that becoming sexually active would take over her mind and her dating relationship. She reports that while she does think about “It” a lot, it hasn’t taken over her entire mind and her relationship with her boyfriend is just the same. At the end, the two make plans for their next sexual encounter—at the White House, no less—while his father is busy with some function or other.

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