Humor in YA, a guest post by Hope Bolinger
Why We Need Humor in YA Books
I grew up in the era of really depressing YA books. That’s right. When authors hit the dystopian euphoria, I’d started middle school, and by the time they ended their worlds where the governments wore white suits and pitted teenagers against each other in arenas, I graduated.
And I totally get it.
It doesn’t take a child prodigy to recognize we live in a crazy world. And fiction often reflects the harmful practices and beliefs our society attempts to hide.
But something happens when you hit someone with depressing book after depressing book.
They stop reading.
We’ve seen it time and time again with this pandemic. Grim news story after news story took its toll. And so we turned to memes. We turned to TikTok. And we turned to anything but the news.
I’d Love to Tell You a Story
Any other theater nerds in the house? Please raise those hands, and assorted props from the props closet, high.
Back in the day my high school put on a performance of Beauty and the Beast. I hadn’t made the cast of this particular production (competition was always fierce), so I watched from the audience.
The show carried on without any hitches, until the last bit of the show.
For those unfamiliar with the stage production, past the waltz between Belle and the Beast, the show is rather tense until the end. The songs and the fight scene between the castle’s inhabitants and the villagers leaves little room for any wisecracking.
During the performance, near the end of the tension, our director decided to have the Beast and Gaston (the villain) plummet to their deaths. But at the last moment, the Beast’s arm comes into view. He managed to grab hold of the “side” of the castle (the pit that led into the orchestra).
When this happened, someone laughed in the audience. Loudly. In fact, more than one someone did.
They had experienced so much tension in their gut that they had to release it. They had to laugh. So they chose the most inopportune moment to do so.
We Need Laughter
YA should shed light on injustice. It should point out where society fails, where we don’t practice equity, and where we can improve. But it should also let us laugh.
If we don’t, our audience will find ways to do so anyway.
I’ve also found that humor has a way of helping us to open up to each other more, to open up a space to have important conversations. Humor builds trust and empathy and from those two things, we can share ideas with each other that people may not be as open to if we start guns blazing with the hard-hitting suspense, tension, and tragedy.
Don’t get me wrong, good writing needs tragedy. But the YA in my day five years ago could’ve used a lot more humor. I think if it had more of that, it could’ve done even more in starting crucial conversations.
Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a multi-published novelist. More than 800 of her works have been featured in various publications, reaching millions of readers a year. Her superhero romance she co-wrote with Alyssa Roat releases from INtense Publications in September 2020. Sequel Dear Henchman set to release in April 2021.
Cortex and V need a new nemesis.
Up-and-coming teen superhero Cortex is on top of the world—at least, until his villain dumps him. Meanwhile, the villainous Vortex has once again gotten a little overeager and taken out a hero prematurely.
So the two turn to Meta-Match, a nemesis pairing site for heroes and villains, where they match right away. But not everything in the superhero world is as it seems. Who are the real heroes and villains? And just how fine of a line is there between love and hate? When darkness from the past threatens them both, Cortex and V may need to work together to make it out alive.
September 28, 2020
Age range: 14-18+
Filed under: Uncategorized
About Ally Watkins
Ally Watkins is a Youth Services Librarian in Mississippi. She has worked in public libraries for over 8 years and previously served as library consultant for the State Library of Mississippi.
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