I know this topic has been talked to death lately, ever since the Wall Street Journal ran an article lamenting the huge amount of paranormal, dystopian and tough-issue books on the shelves these days. Our discussion was thoughtful and layered and included some wonderful input from some of the teens in the audience, and we landed where most authors and readers land whenever this topic comes up: that these books can play an important role in sparking discourse, that it's dangerous to tar entire genres with one brush, that it's up to readers and their parents to decide what's appropriate for them. I don't want to re-hash all of that here. What I do want to do is share some perspective from an author who doesn't write quote/unquote dark books.
Basically, if you're not in the mood for a darker topic or you don't think your child is ready, there are TONS of books out there that offer a lighter read. It may take some digging - I understand it can be overwhelming when big bookstores plaster their endcaps and displays with titles about dead teens, demons, violent futuristic societies, etc., (plus some lighter books aren't even making it to big-box bookstores right now). That's where the market is, still, and I want to go on the record as saying I've enjoyed several books on "darker" topics lately. But a good bookseller or librarian should be able to direct you to books that deal with more realistic settings and take a lighter tone. And by lighter, I don't necessarily mean froofy, cutesy or superficial. A lot of books out there deal with heavy topics like death or rivalry (like my book!) and even teen pregnancy, but with a less-gritty point of view.
Before last weekend's panel, I asked some fellow authors for recommendations for "lighter" YA books. I read these off at the end of the discussion, and I thought I'd share them here. This list doesn't come close to being exhaustive - please add your own titles in comments. I may find some new books for my TBR pile!
RIVAL by Sara Bennett Wealer (got to toot my own horn here)
ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins
SEAN GRISWOLD'S HEAD by Lindsey Leavitt
GEEK GIRLS' GUIDE TO CHEERLEADING by Darcy Vance and Charity Tahmeseb
YOU WISH and PRADA & PREJUDICE by Mandy Hubbard
MOSTLY GOOD GIRLS by Leila Sales
WHERE I BELONG by Gwendolyn Heasley
E. Lockhart's Ruby Oliver books
JUST YOUR AVERAGE PRINCESS and THE ESPRESSOLOGIST by Kristina Springer
DONUT DAYS by Lara Zielin (I'm reading her THE IMPLOSION OF AGGIE WINCHESTER right now, and even though it deals with a goth girl and teen pregnancy, I wouldn't classify it as a "dark" book.
PROM & PREJUDICE by Elizabeth Eulberg
COFFEEHOUSE ANGEL by Suzanne Selfors
Ally Carter's GALLAGHER GIRLS books
SUITE SCARLETT and the BLUE ENVELOPE books by Maureen Johnson