With great power comes great responsibility.
So says Uncle Ben, caregiver to the famous fictional superhero, Spider-Man (real name: Peter Parker). I don't know about you guys, but Spider-Man is probably my favorite superhero, and not just because he was most recently played by the crazy adorable Andrew Garfield (I like my dudes British and fluffy-haired, okay?).
I love Spider-Man because his origin story represents the quintessential YA character tale, which is something I can't resist. Think about it: confused young person, not sure of who he is or where he belongs, pining after an un-gettable love interest, suddenly faces a huge life upheaval (involving a spider bite and some raging super-villains - a metaphor for adolescence?)... one that requires him to understand his identity while dealing with dramatic challenges he couldn't have expected. Sounds like a great YA story, and it is, at least to me.
As a YA writer, there's something else that interests me about Spider-Man's story, and that's Uncle Ben's "great power" quote. It's a cliche, sure. But sometimes I wonder if it's not given enough credit or consideration. The idea that people who have the ability to do important things always should hasn't exactly been incorporated into our society (just look at the high popularity of investment banking as a career choice).
The truth is, you don't have to have superhuman powers to apply this quote to your life. Every day, lots of people (including yours truly!) have the chance to Do Something About Something and decide not to, whether it's for a good or not-so-good reason. Which is really interesting, especially when you consider that as YA writers, we definitely have power.
How so? Well, let's say your book is published and read by a whole bunch of teens who think it's awesome (whoohoo!! :D). 99% chance is, your book is affecting those teens - affecting how they think, how they see the world, how they feel about certain groups of people, how they feel about themselves, and endless other "effects."
This might sound a little overwhelming, and for sure, sometimes people take their sense of power over teenagers' thinking a little too far (see: the YA censorship debacle). But... don't take it too far, and you have a great tool for doing important things. For helping the teen who's bullied at school and hates her body feel not so alone. For helping the teen who does the bullying at that school see a whole different point of view.
With great power, comes great responsibility. Do you agree?