The blogosphere has been abuzz over a six-figure deal for the rights to a year-old self-published debut novel, The Cruelty, by Scott Bergstrom. The firestorm began with a November 24th article in Publisher’s Weekly, “YA Debut Gets Six Figure Deal, Sold to 16 Territories and Jerry Bruckheimer” in which Bergstrom asserted that “the morality of the book is more complicated than a lot of YA … In a lot of YA, the conflict takes place inside a walled garden, set up by outside adult forces. If you think of those stories as a metaphor for high school, they start to make a lot more sense, but that was one thing I wanted to depart from.”
Moral conflicts inside a walled garden? Hello? Ever heard of The Hunger Games? Code Name Verity? Harry Potter? And countless others too numerous to list? Teenage years are filled with morally complicated choices—and aren’t YA book supposed to reflect those angst-ridden moments? Certainly, many of the scenarios in which these kinds of choices take place do not include inside garden walls.
The backlash was immediate!
• #MorallyComplicatedYA lit up twitter, where many YA writers and readers weighed in with their favorite morally complicated YA selections.
• BNTeen blog fought back with a list of their top 7 morally complex works of YA fiction
• Our Walled Garden and BookRiot offered their own recommendations for morally complicated YA books.
But the outrage wasn’t limited only to the question of moral complexity. The second offense perceived by Bergstrom’s comments was his claim to have created a non-girly female protagonist who, by the way, begins the novel as an overweight 17-year old and transforms herself into “a lean warrior with hair dyed fire-engine red.” Is that supposed to break new feminist ground?
• For responses to that, check out Mary Elizabeth Summer’s blog. On it, she links to Chuck Wendig’s blogpost about white dude privilege and Laura Tim’s addressing femininity in female protagonists
While we wait with bated breath for The Cruelty to come out so we can judge for ourselves, let us know some of your favorite morally complex YA books!