Thursday, September 6, 2007

My New Novel Isn't Appropriate for Kids

Stewards of the Flame is my first adult novel, and since I'm known as a YA author (even, to people familiar only with Enchantress from the Stars, which was a Newbery Honor book, as a "children's author") some have assumed that probably the new novel is really suitable for teenagers as well as adults, since YA books are more mature than they used to be. After all, I've been saying for years that my trilogy shouldn't be given to as young readers as it often is, since the average kids don't understand it and are bored--only the exceptionally advanced readers below high school age enjoy it, and its recent edition was issued as adult SF.

The situation with Stewards of the Flame is different. In the first place, it's unlikely that the story would interest teens, as there are no young people in it--the hero and all the main characters are in their 40s or older. And they are concerned, among other things, with adult problems such as death in old age.

There are two other reasons why I emphasize that the book isn't appropriate for YA readers. First, it contains some sex and profanity, mild by the standards of adult fiction but more than readers expect from me on the basis of my YA novels. This would be objectionable to some parents, considering that my YA books are often given to middle school kids even when I say they're for older teens.

Second and perhaps most significant, the book is strongly critical of today's medical dogma and advocates ignoring government health advice, including much that is taught in today's schools. To be sure, it deals with a future society, and I hope makes plain to adults that today it would not be possible to reject orthodox medical care to the extent the characters do, since we lack the means to implement their alternative. But young readers might not make the distinction. To them the story would say "Avoid doctors, if necessary by hiding your symptoms." And a lot of parents and schools would object if they thought a noted YA author was trying to undermine the official view on this subject in the minds of kids! I don't want to damage my reputation in the YA field by upsetting parents or teachers, and I don't want to mislead kids by offering them material that they haven't the maturity to interpret.

Of course, if older teens who read other adult fiction want to read it, that's okay--but I think it's important to make clear that librarians shouldn't order it for the YA collection.

1 comment:

The Overgrown Hobbit said...

I'll be sure to bring it to the next WashYARG meeting and tell my fellow YA librarians that.

I'm looking forward to reading your new novel!