Too dark for YA?

My first question on the forums :)

I'm currently writing a YA fantasy, wherein the hero is 15 and her compatriots range in age from 9 to 18. She and her friends will be drawn into a battle for a kingdom and there will be dark creatures. I wanted something to instill fear, so I am considering making one of the dark species very dark indeed. Right now I'm considering having them be known for tying up humans and eating them while they are alive.

Mind you, I don't plan to include any actual scenes of this happening, I am just planning to have these creatures have this reputation and rumors spread about them.

The question: Is this too dark for YA?
 

Steerpike

Felis amatus
Moderator
No, it's not. YA has some of the darkest subject matter around, and the body of literature covers everything - rape, suicide, murder, drug use, abuse, and so on. If you take a look at the stuff that is out there in YA, you'll see all kinds of dark subject matter.

Chuck Wendig talks about this on his blog (25 Things You Should Know About Young Adult Fiction « terribleminds: chuck wendig) - warning for language (it is Wendig after all).

Two of his points are particularly pertinent:

16. RISKIER STORIES

Personal opinion time: some of the bravest, strangest, coolest stories right now are being told in the young adult space. It’s stuff that doesn’t fly by tropes or adhere to rules — appropriate, perhaps, since young adults tend to flick cigarettes in the eyes of the rules and don’t play by social norms as much as adults do. (Though teens certainly have their own social codes, too.) I wish adult fiction so frequently took risks on the material at hand, but it doesn’t. And as a person (relatively) new to the young adult spectrum, I used to assume it was all Twilight: generic pap. But then you read John Green, or Libba Bray, or Maureen Johnson — or holy shit, have you read Code Name: Verity?! — and your eyes start to go all boggly. Amazing storytelling in this realm. Amazing! I’ll wait here while you go read it all. *stares*

17. MORE “ADULT” STORIES

Young adult stories are encouraged to deal with some heavy shit when needed. Suicide, racism, misogyny, teen pregnancy, depression, cancer, rape, school shootings, and so forth. Don’t feel like it needs to be all cushy and cozy and given over to some Hollywood notion of what it’s like being a teenager. Sometimes YA books get called “children’s fiction,” which makes it sound like it stars characters looking for their next cotton candy fix while trying to stop the playground bullies from stealing their truck toys. Young adults still deal with some particularly adult things.
 
Thanks Steerpike! I've run the idea by a few friends and we all felt the same, that it was fine. Besides, I wanted something to horrify and give readers the willies!
 

Steerpike

Felis amatus
Moderator
Thanks Steerpike! I've run the idea by a few friends and we all felt the same, that it was fine. Besides, I wanted something to horrify and give readers the willies!

Yeah, I think it's a great idea. I've been working on some scary stories for kids that I hope will actually be scary (though not too far over the top). When my kids were younger, they loved scary stories and their chief complaint was that all the stories for kids were 'cheesy' instead of scary.
 
If you ever want to see just how much YA writers can get away with, look up The Demonata. Or if you want something that isn't completely sick and wrong, look up I Am Not a Serial Killer. Good lord.
 

Jabrosky

Banned
I can't speak for most people who have gone through adolescence, but I know I wouldn't have appreciated too much toning down the violence when I was a teen. Most teens would prefer not to be confused with small children when it comes to taste.
 

Queshire

Auror
I'm bored and want to extend the life of this thread so take my words with a grain of salt but I think it might not be dark enough. I mean, just take a look at what teens learn in history books, what they see in the news, on TV, in movies, in the games we play.

If you want to achieve an emotional resonance for the reader you need to make it real for the reader. Show it to the reader! Have your main character tied up and ready to be eaten! Stain the pages with fear and reluvsion and utter inevitability! Have the character have nightmares about almost getting eaten afterwards.
 
If you want to achieve an emotional resonance for the reader you need to make it real for the reader. Show it to the reader! Have your main character tied up and ready to be eaten! Stain the pages with fear and reluvsion and utter inevitability! Have the character have nightmares about almost getting eaten afterwards.

I'm actually considering this, or at least one of her friends.
 
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