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  • Writer's picture Kathy Cassel

This Is Why I Write YA Fiction

I love reading YA books, or in reality listening to them on CD or audible while I drive. Most of the books I’m reading have themes of depression, suicide, death and so on. The books don’t offer any real answers or hope, and I felt a strong call to switch from devotion books to YA fiction that are fast paced and entertaining but which will also reach teens with the message that there is a God, and he has a plan for them. If they walk away from the story with that hope, then I’ve succeeded in planting a seed of faith.

My e mail from Good Reads today highlighted the most anticipated Young Adult Mystery and Thriller books of the season. But it also contained a warning: Generally speaking, the subject matter tends to be pretty heavy and dark. There aren't a lot of cozies on display.

Then there are the 36 book covers from those highly anticipated books. You can click the cover to get the book descriptions. The link to them is here:

I clicked on four to see what they were about. Dark is the descriptor they used, depressing is the one I'd use!

Here are a few descriptions:

From These Deadly Games:

Let’s play a game.

You have 24 hours to win. If you break my rules, she dies. If you call the police, she dies. If you tell your parents or anyone else, she dies.

Are you ready?

When Crystal Donavan gets a message on a mysterious app with a video of her little sister gagged and bound, she agrees to play the kidnapper’s game. At first, they make her complete bizarre tasks: steal a test and stuff it in a locker, bake brownies, make a prank call.

But then Crystal realizes each task is meant to hurt—and kill—her friends, one by one. But if she refuses to play, the kidnapper will kill her sister. Is someone trying to take her team out of the running for a gaming tournament? Or have they uncovered a secret from their past, and wants them to pay for what they did…

As Crystal makes the impossible choices between her friends and her sister, she must uncover the truth and find a way to outplay the kidnapper… before it’s too late.

From: The New Girl

Lia Setiawan has never really fit in. When she wins a full ride to the prestigious Draycott Academy on a track scholarship, she's determined to make it work even though she's never felt more out of place. But on her first day there she witnesses a girl being forcefully carried away by campus security. Her new schoolmates and teachers seem unfazed, but it leaves her unsure of what she's gotten herself into. As she uncovers the secrets of Draycott, complete with a corrupt teacher, a golden boy who isn't what he seems, and a blackmailer determined to get her thrown out, she's not sure if she can trust anyone--especially when the threats against her take a deadly turn.

From: Daughter

Scarlet’s life is pretty average. Overly protective mom. Great friends. Cute boy she’s interested in. And a father she’s never known – until she does.

When the FBI show up at Scarlet’s door, she is shocked to learn her father is infamous serial killer Jeffrey Robert Lake. And now, he’s dying and will only give the names and locations of his remaining victims to the one person, the daughter he hasn’t seen since she was a baby.

Scarlet’s mother has tried to protect her from Lake’s horrifying legacy, but there’s no way they can escape the media firestorm that erupts when they come out of hiding. Or the people who blame Scarlet for her father’s choices. When trying to do the right thing puts her life in danger, Scarlet is faced with a choice – go back into hiding or make the world see her as more than a monster’s daughter.

And I think more than just the descriptions, the comments readers posted give the feeling that the books may not be the best choices.

Here are some examples:

From Daughter:

...Another thing I didn't enjoy was the teen sex. Scarlett is constantly lusting after this dude like he's the last man on earth. His smile, his shoulders, his muscular thighs, what she would give to run her hands down his abs. Yuck, yuck, yuck, yuck. I think I am too old to be listening to the details of teenagers having sex.

Speaking of being old, this book is definitely YA and Scarlett and her friends come across as very immature. I'm not totally against YA fiction, I've read some great ones ), but I prefer the characters to lean to the more mature side.

I wanted more of a mystery but it wasn’t really that. Some parts were really not believable and others were kind of gross. Did we really need the information about necrophilia and it repeated over and over? No. Her dad gave me the absolute creeps and I suppose that was what the author was going for--showing us that glorifying these killers and making them out to be misunderstood rather than evil psychopaths is the wrong way to look at it. really really tired of all of the pot smoking and drugs and pot smoking and pot smoking. Ok we get it they are teenagers, move on. Overall, this book could have been better than it was, but it wasn't all bad.

From The New GIrl

...Then about the midway point something occurs and it all went downhill from there. Not down a gentle rolling hill but more off the edge of a cliff. It was a shame because prior to that I was actually absorbed in the paranoia and panicky feelings as the main character slowly realised how corrupt the school actually was. Also, the ending was ridiculous.

...but mainly, i just couldnt get on board with how ridiculous the story is. like, unrealistic to the nth degree. i mean, i knew it was going to be over-the-top based on the synopsis, but this is all kinds of absurd. and maybe its just me in my old age wanting a more realistic thriller, because im sure teens will have an easier time overlooking this and getting into it (but only if they can get past the highly unlikable and completely unrelatable characters).

My goal is to write YA books that will be just as highly anticipated as the ones on the Goodreads list. Please help me by buying a copy or two and passing them on to teens, youth pastors, counselors, school libraries and so on.

Freerunner is the story of a 15 year old abuse survivor. It could be dark, but Kia finds hope and the readers will too.

Set against the backdrop of the sport of freerunning, Kia must decide whether she will continue running or face her past abuser in order to save another child.

Night is Kia’s favorite time, when she freeruns to outdistance the memories of abuse she suffered as a young child. But when former reality television star Terrence Jones arrives at their school as the new head track coach, things begin to change in unpredictable ways. Kia tries out for the team to fit in, but just as she's gaining a new sense of normal, her abuser steps back into her life. Not only that, but being on the track team causes even more turmoil. Why does the assistant coach, Cassandra Clark, dislike Terrence Jones so much, and even more troubling, why does Coach Clark dislike her so much? As the pieces of the puzzle begin to come together, Kia realizes she has to choose between running from her past or saving a child from the same sort of abuse she suffered. But will she have the courage to do so?

It's available in paperback, kindle and aduible.

Catching Hope follows four teens as they are kidnapped, escape, and make a perilous journey through the Haitian mountains back to safety. But in a twist of fate, their nightmare isn't over. Again, a book that could be dark, but the characters learn to work together and find hope. Main character Chad even has a favorite Scripture about confident hope (Romans 15:13NLT)

Catching Hope: A pursuit fraught with danger.

Newly adopted Lexi Michaels is taking her first real vacation as she, twin brother Levi, adoptive brother Chad, and new cousin Jen head to Haiti where their dad, a pediatrician, will be volunteering in an island clinic. But who is the man who displays such hatred for the Michaels when they arrive at their resort? Is an attempted burglary as random as it appears? Will Jen ever accept the newcomers to the family? When the four teens set out to explore Haiti’s sights and history on their own, an unexpected encounter and natural disaster plunge them into adventure and danger. With their very survival at stake, can the four teens work together, or will Lexi’s dream of a “forever family” end in tragedy?

Also available on amazon

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