And I'm not referring to promiscuous behavior, drug use, profanity, or any of those other things that ruffle some book-banning feathers in the young adult world.
A while back, I read a wonderful blog post* on the current popularity of fantasy in the young adult world. It cautioned writers to look past the entertainment value of their stories to see what message they might be inadvertently sending by raising the question of how the character was able to solve/overcome the obstacles in their stories. Does the main character rely on a magical item or ability to be successful? Could that send the reader the message that to prevail against difficult circumstances, one would have to possess some otherworldly skill?
I don't know that every young reader would make that connection, but it certainly does make a writer think. If we rely on lots of magical elements to make a book work, we can't lose sight of the fact that the main character's growth and adaptation is what the story should really be about.
Magic drips from the pages of any Harry Potter book; spells and mystical items are plentiful. But alongside those things, Harry still has to learn to deal with a bully (Malfoy), the Big Bad, (Voldermort), and those horrid Dursleys (which, if you ask me, are much worse than Voldermort). The point is, while the books focus a great deal on fantasy elements, the reader still sees the main character learn and grow as a person, not just a wizard.
And while the blog post focused on fantasy, it can be applied to any genre. So your latest WIP has a main character with parents who recently divorced. She lost her friends and boyfriend when she had to move. Obviously, if your character handled it all in stride, there wouldn't really be much of a story. But by the end of the book, did your character overcome all of this by becoming a stronger person or did she rely solely on other people or things to get through?
Do YA writers have more of a responsibility to do more than just write for the entertainment element?
Do you ever think about what messages your stories could be sending?
*I cannot find the web address for this post as I followed a link someone had posted on twitter a few months ago. If anyone knows which article I'm referring to, feel free to post in the comments so they get proper credit and others can read.