"In fact, woman has a genius all her own,
which is vitally essential to both society and the Church." --John Paul II

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Does "Christian" YA lit still send the wrong message?

Over at First Things, David Mills discusses an article about the success of Christian YA lit written for girls, and how it seems that these books have gone from being unbearably preachy to... perhaps a little too subtle?

From [article author Ruth] Graham’s description, these new girls’ books don’t in fact seem particularly Christian, unless Christianity is reduced to a certain code of behavior.
In the newest books, old-fashioned values are embraced for newfangled reasons. Modesty is endorsed, not because of shame, but because of self-respect and practicality: Protagonist DJ in Spring Breakdown opts for a one-piece swimsuit over a teensy bikini because, “I like to swim. And I like to move around.” Besides, another character reflects later, “Sometimes subtle is sexy.”
That is true, but it is not modesty.It’s the opposite. Practicality is not modesty either. None of these reasons, nor those mentioned elsewhere in the story, are actually “Christian values,” even though they support decisions Christians would generally approve. They’re aren’t really “old-fashioned values” either, as that term is usually understood....  If Graham is right, these writers have merely taken the lessons they want to teach and found practical or worldly reasons for them.

Thoughts?  I wonder if, in the end, it would be better for kids to read a good secular book than to read a book with the subtle message "Christian living is practical!"  

(Off topic, I think it's kind of funny that many of the intended young readers of these books are probably being taught to reject the "works righteousness"of the Catholic Church.

Please do not start trying in the comments box to convince me to reject "works righteousness"; that topic has been flogged to death plenty of other places.  Besides, I need to unload the dishwasher.)


  1. We run for the hills instead of reading Christian YA literature. All of the best reasons for living life as a Christian are decidedly countercultural and therefore most certainly NOT practical. At another point in my life I would have engaged you in the works debate; now I know better. And besides, I have a 6 yr old who needs a hairwash before we go to the salon for her first trim. Better she be scarred for life by me than by the salon....

  2. My opinion is limited because I have never read ANY Christian YA -- however, commenting on the article, I can say this: I would possibly introduce Christian YA as a wholesome alternative to other fiction for that age group, but I would do it with specific virtue education in mind. For instance, the 16 yr old would be asked to find the problem of reducing modesty to practicality in the story and then find and/or offer an alternative means of conveying the same scene with the virtue in mind. That is, however, more like a school assignment than pleasure reading. So, I'd have to say steer away from them if your hope is to have "values" instilled through this genre.

  3. I worked at a bookstore three years ago and found most of the YA to be trashy books like Gossip Girls and creepy shapeshifting vampireresses. It's downright awful. I have even reviewed several genres of Christian fiction for my blog and believe that Christian YA can be a better alternative for young girls than what is contained on the regular shelves. However, there are a couple of cautions. First of all, some Christian YA has subtle anti-Catholic undertones that may confuse your child and may require some discussion. There is also the question of how much the "message" is watered down for the story. There are some good Catholic YA books out there (Regina Doman for example), but it is not a well developed market and unless people buy the books, it never will be. Let's be realistic, will your teenage daughter sit around reading Lives of the Saints for fun? What kind of recreational reading should we recommend? Although I don't disagree that it's important for a Christian YA to impart some moral lesson, sometimes a "practical" aspect to life can help get our teens to really think about an issue they might not consider.
    As always, it's our responsibility as parents to monitor and discuss what our children read, but why shouldn't we consider fiction with a message?

  4. Well, first I must say that I am thrilled to have found this blog in Mary's profile and I don't know HOW I've missed it all this time! Wow! Great place! Secondly, PLEASE forgive my ignorance, but could someone tell me what "YA" means? Next, my teens actually DO sit around and read "Lives of the Saints" just for fun all the time!!! However, they also enjoy a wide genre of other reading material so I'll be happy to check our Regina Doman as you've suggested Mary ::SMILE::
    Finally, thank you for this important post...there is a real danger in exposing our children to a "watered-down" version of "virtues"...skating around the core issues in order to appease and be seen as "just like everyone else". We, as Christians, according to Christ, are NOT to be "just like everyone else" but rather, radically DIFFERENT! And, any time that we are omitting the true reasons for decisions because we don't want to scare someone away with our "Christian beliefs" then we are acting as Peter, and "denying Our Lord".
    Sadly, there are entire "Catholic" schools in our nation being run this way...and, as you have mentioned with books...one is almost led to feel that a good secular school would be better than a "in name only" Catholic one.
    Anyway, thanks for the great blog and great post!

  5. Thank you for coming by :)

    YA = "Young Adult". Your comment reminds me of T.S. Eliot's line about "The last temptation is the greatest treason: to do the right deed for the wrong reason."


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