Trish Doller's post inspired me here. Thanks, Trish! I absolutely believe that there are exceptions to every rule, and rules can be broken.
Let's face it--writing outside the lines in YA takes guts and thick skin. For me, writing hard truths takes a special kind of commitment. Using the f-word (even once) in my story will alienate some of my potential audience. But I don't set out to offend anyone. I wish I could make reality easier to digest, but that wouldn't be fair to my audience, especially those who have experienced what I write about. What good does sugar-coating or skirting a hard topic do? I know my teen self would HATE me if I did that. So, I put honesty first--even if it risks offending people. Even if it's hard to read. Even if it means I won't get a lot of sales...
There's definitely a backlash against realistic/gritty books. Just look at any banned book list, or the various articles that come out about parents trying to get certain books banned from libraries. Look at what Ellen Hopkins has talked about a couple times now--getting invited to speak and then being told not to come because someone was offended by one of her books. It can get ugly for an author. Really ugly.
But I think those of us who write the hard truths expect that. We go into it knowing we're going to get certain comments. We will get shunned from certain lists or places. We won't be the first person invited to do talks at certain schools. But you know what? That's okay.
Because for every person we offend, there is someone who truly appreciates our work. Maybe they could relate. Maybe they learned something. Maybe they just really fell in love with the characters. But when they put up a review or send an email, you can tell they loved it with every fiber of their being. And--for me-- that makes up for all the backlash. My goal isn't to win everyone over out there--just the few who get it. The few who want to get it. The few who didn't even know they wanted to get it.
So, I'm going to keep on writing what I love. What every part of me wants to write. I've tried to force a book before, and it's never worked. I never...ever...finish it. Maybe the next book will be lighthearted and fluffy. Maybe it'll be another one filled with hard truths. But whatever it is, I'm not going to censor things. I'm not going to do it half-assed. And you better believe I'll be 200% behind it when I try to put it out in the world.
Because that's the key to being an author who pushes boundaries--for me, anyway. I have to believe in what I'm doing. I have to be proud to put it out there.