Saturday, July 13, 2013

To Be Truly Brave: Religion in YA Fiction

Metropolitan Cathedral 1 Curitiba BrasilI always thought YA Fiction was brave in breaking down boundaries and discussing the undiscussable in fiction. Homosexuality is a good example. In what other genres do you find titles like Boy Meets Boy? However, I've discovered the disheartening truth that YA Fiction isn't always being brave. Sometimes it is simply being trendy. What with the gay rights campaigns blaring, books about gay teenagers are becoming the popular causes to promote. But I think if YA Fiction wanted to be truly brave and groundbreaking, it would talk about something the overwhelming majority of teenagers worry about: religion.

At least 84% of the world identifies themselves with a religion, and much of the remaining 16% still believes in some sort of spirituality, according to this article by the Huffington Post. That's...most of the world! So you would think YA Fiction would be all over that.

But it's not. Why?

In America, it's popular, comfortable and sanctioned to bash religion. But that isn't the case in most of the world or in every circle of Americans.

I read an interview of the author Rae Carson, a secular humanist, in which she expresses regret that today's religious teens can't find themselves in the fiction supposedly written for them. When asked why she included religion in her Fantasy novel, she said, "I include it because religion exists, and because I think it's tragic when teenagers can't find themselves in fiction."

Teens today do have to deal with religion. They have to discover it and learn about it and decide what they believe. They may have religion in their family, or their family may be atheists, but they will still have to decide for themselves one way or the other.

Don't get me wrong: there is some YA Fiction that digs into religion, but most of the main-stream popular books bash it, brush it aside, or ignore it altogether. YA Fiction owes teens dialogue about something so important.

And by the way, it owes them more than blown up stereotypes and purposefully antagonistic representations.

So let's break the ringing silence and talk this out.

The social reading website,, provides some religiously-themed YA Fiction booklists, in case you're looking for them. You can get to Goodreads by clicking the box of my book reviews in the top right of my blog site page.

On a side note, should Christian teens be relegated to reading "Christian Fiction" in order to identify themselves in their fun reading? I've talked before about my feelings on the label "Christian Fiction." What do you think?

Photo Attribution:
By Morio (photo taken by Morio) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


  1. Thanks for this. My YA series deals with themes that touch on religion, but the third book (being written now) really centers on the different characters' experiences of faith, spirituality, and religion (not the same thing). Interested in beta reading when it's done? :-)

  2. Peter,

    How cool! Teens want to figure out this stuff (at least in my experience), so I believe their fiction should expose them to lots of ideas about religion. I'm glad to hear you're tackling that tough topic.

    What a generous offer! I'm going to be too busy to exchange drafts until after the New Year because of school. Maybe we can we revisit the idea then?

    In the meantime, we could exchange the first 10 draft pages or a short story to test compatibility, if you're interested :) If you don't like what I return, we can call it off no questions asked.

    Looking forward to a response!