by Katy White
I'm in the querying process, and I recently had an agent request a full manuscript of my YA contemporary romance. Only a week later, I had an R&R (revise and resubmit) request from her. She told me she loved the book, loved the idea, and thought it would be an easy sell to editors, with just one caveat: either age it up or age it down. Make it more mature or more juvenile.
Go raunchy or go middle grade.
I'm embarrassed to admit how much this bothered me. It wasn't just that I was offended by how young adult literature has become progressively more age-inappropriate. It was that I instantly thought of a dozen ways to "age it up." To make it more mature. Raunchier.
The thought didn't last for more than a split second. But in that split second, I could feel the pull of "doing whatever it takes" to get published. I could feel how easy it would be to make the changes that I'm sure would have thrilled the agent. I could feel myself losing my grasp on why I love young adult fiction and why I want to write YA and only YA. And I didn't like it.
Fortunately, two split seconds later, I shook it off. I reminded myself of the reason I write YA (irrespective of the fact that I'm not a huge middle grade fan). I write YA because I love it and think it demands more authenticity than you find in other age groups. More importantly, I write it because I have nieces and young women in my ward who love reading and who are finding less and less new releases that support their standards. My concern isn't even cuss words or mature themes, because I feel those have a place in literature and an author can tell a valuable, important story by using such things responsibly. My concern is that more and more books are making standards seem embarrassing and making values look like bigotry.
I can't stand for that.
I don't know how long it will take me to get published (if ever). But I know I won't stop trying. I know I can't sell out.
So...here's my "discussion question" for all of you: where would you/do you draw the line when it comes to making your book a better sell? When is it appropriate to make something more mature, and how would you do that, if you felt like it was important?