My Blog

My Thoughts on YA Writing and “Thirteen Reasons Why”

Writing is one of the most fulfilling and depleting things a person can do. It’s tough. It’s grueling. It’s, often times, thankless. But it’s also exhilarating and exciting.

Most of us writers, write to make a difference. Whether it’s simply to distract our readers from the everyday yuck of life or to help them develop betters lives—to encourage, strengthen, and sometimes save them.

And that’s why I feel for Jay Asher, the author of Thirteen Reasons Why. No matter what people say about the book turned Netflix series, I sincerely believe that he had nothing but great intentions. The things that happen in the book does happen in real life, in real high schools. Over the years as a youth worker, my shoulders have been soaked with tears of countless girls who have been through horrible situations. I wish it wasn’t so. But it is.

And that’s why I write for teens.

I haven’t seen the Netflix Series, Thirteen Reasons Why. I made the decision not to let my fourteen-year-old daughter watch the show. I know that’s the right decision for my daughter.

I’ve spoken to teens who said that shows like Thirteen Reasons Why, with the explicit scenes and language are more authentic and more likely to be watched. And therefore more influential. As to whether it’s a negative or positive influence—that’s debatable. Perhaps it depends on the person.

I don’t think that all teens were the intended audience for Thirteen Reasons Why. I think it’s intended for teens who have found themselves in similar situations. Teens who not only watch intense shows but live intense lives. And if it’s not authentic, they may simply discount it. I wish it wasn’t authentic. I wish it wasn’t the way things are. But I fear it is for some.

So here’s another thought, is it authentic because television, movies, and books have shaped the teen culture to be that way? What came first?

If tv, movies, and books stopped being so explicit, would it make a difference in how teens speak and act?

I don’t know. Perhaps the damage is already done. I hope not, though.

The Bible is full of gritty stuff —rape, murder, drunkenness, sex, to name a few. It doesn’t shy away from those subjects.

And I don’t think we, Christian writers, should either. In fact, some of those nefarious topics are in my upcoming book, Abby’s Letters. But I do think we need to be careful about how detailed we are when we write about these subjects. And especially careful not to glamorize negative behavior.

Abby’s Letters is not explicit. It doesn’t have any foul language or inappropriate scenes. But I do tackle tough subjects like lying, underage drinking, gossip, and pre-marital sex. I feel that I went about it in a good way. It’s a clean book, but it doesn’t avoid those not-so-clean topics.

Sometimes I fear what critics might say about my books, but then that gives me the credit. And if I truly believe that what I have written comes from God’s guidance, then I have nothing to worry about. Let the people criticize all they want.

God has called me to write. And before I write anything, I pray. It’s all I can do. I know that what I’m writing is what God wants me to write.

How do I know this? Because I couldn’t do it without Him. The page would be blank.

So I write. But first I pray. And I leave the rest to God.

That’s all any Christian writer can do.

 

  • Jeanette Morris

    Well said, Dana. Thanks.

    • Dana Romanin

      Thanks, Jeanette!