Have you been to the movies lately? Think of the biggest box-office hits in the past four years, and you may conjure names like Harry, Bella, and Katniss. Here’s a list of big-screen money-makers from the entertainment website, IMDb:
- The Amazing Spider Man 2
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier
- Iron Man 3
- Despicable Me 2
- Hunger Games: Catching Fire
- The Avengers
- Dark Knight Rises
- Hunger Games
- Sky Fall (James Bond)
- The Twilight Series: Breaking Dawn (Pt. 2)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Pt. 2)
- Transformers: Dark of the Moon
- The Twilight Series: Breaking Dawn (Pt. 1)
Notice the movie titles in BOLD and underlined were originally novels written for the YA (young adult) fiction market (defined by YALSA as ages 12-18). Most of the other blockbuster movies were derived from comic strips or cartoons. Interesting, eh?
Why Is YA Fiction So Popular?
A fascinating article on CNN.com recounted the evolution of YA fiction—from its post WWII genesis to the late 70’s sage and its 90’s-Harry-Potter rebirth. A couple of quotes were especially insightful. Jennifer Lynn Barnes, a young adult author, Ph.D. and cognitive science scholar [says]:
“Teens are caught between two worlds, childhood and adulthood, and in YA, they can navigate those two worlds and sometimes dualities of other worlds.”
Isn’t it interesting that a scientist recognizes an adolescent’s need for “other worlds” to navigate the transition from childhood to adulthood? As followers of Jesus Christ, we would readily admit that our teens need spiritual help to successfully make that transition!
Here’s a similar quote from the same article:
“It’s not surprising that YA is always dealing with transformation, whether it be realistic or supernatural,” author and publisher Lizzie Skurnick said. “It’s the only genre that can always be both. It shows teen life in full chaos. And that means constant change.”
If You’ve Raised a Teen Or Been a Teen…
Obviously, we’ve all been teens, but for some of us, it’s been so long ago we’ve forgotten the chaos we felt during those years.
Yes, chaos. Remember? Emotional, relational, physical, spiritual. Everything seemed unsteady. Off-kilter.
And a novel that portrays characters with feelings to which a teen can relate—even if those characters are vampires or wizards or dystopian competitors trying to kill each other—makes the teen’s chaotic life seem more manageable. An adolescent reading the Harry Potter, Twilight, or Hunger Game series might say to him/herself:
“If Harry or Bella or Katniss can [overcome evil with good, be cherished by someone special, win against all odds], then maybe I can too.”
As adults, we sometimes “throw the baby out with the bath water.” We rage against the book/movie messenger and miss the subtle—yet positive—message.
Why do we read them nursery rhymes about Old Mother Hubbard who lived in a shoe, and then become surprised when they want to escape into imaginary worlds when they’re teens? They need something or Someone supernatural to help them through this transition from childhood to adulthood.
Supernatural Stories in the Word
Of course, I’m a little partial to biblical novels. 😉 What better place to find supernatural, TRUE stories that stir a teen’s imagination?
- Abraham’s three visitors
- Plagues of Egypt
- Balaam’s talking donkey
- Jesus’ miracles
Need I go on? The whole Bible is FULL of God’s supernatural encounters with humanity. We’ve become immune to their wonder due to familiarity, but add some research and/or real-life drama in the retelling, and you’ve got a full-blown box-office hit on your hands!
Will I Write YA Novels?
I’ve been asked if I ever plan to write a biblical novel for teens or biblical stories for grade-schoolers. I’ll never say never, but at this point, I haven’t felt the Spirit’s nudge. Perhaps because my concept of God was so confused at that stage in my own life…I don’t know. I don’t seem to have a voice for that age yet…but again…I won’t say never!!! 😉
Are My Books Meant for Teens?
To this question, I always stress the parents’ responsibility to approve the book for their teen’s level of maturity. My writing projects contain complex situations that are perhaps more suited to adult understanding.
- Can a thirteen-year-old comprehend Job’s devastation and Dinah’s memories of statutory rape in Love Amid the Ashes?
- Will Love’s Sacred Song stir sensuality in adolescents years before they’re of marriageable age?
- Love in a Broken Vessel boldly portrays Gomer’s life as a prostitute before she marries Hosea.
- In the Shadow of Jezebel confronts one of the most brutal acts in Scripture—Queen Athaliah murdering her grandchildren.
But none of my books dwells on the sin. Each of them has a message that teens need to hear…that we all need to hear.
- Love Amid the Ashes addresses why bad things happen to good people.
- Love’s Sacred Song impresses an indelible message of abstinence before marriage on a young girl’s heart.
- Love in a Broken Vessel stresses forgiveness in the face of repeated betrayal.
- In the Shadow of Jezebel assures teens that even when adults carelessly RUIN their own lives, their kids’ lives, and their country, God can still work His good plan through a teenager’s faithfulness.
Only parents can decide when a teen is mature enough to grasp the message beneath the brutal, real-life events.
YA and “Tween” Biblical Novels
God’s Word is filled with hard realities that flesh out stories preserved by God to teach us vital truths. There are a few brave and talented souls who have written biblical novels for the YA fiction market.
This list of YA biblical novels was pulled together by my BFF Team. (Some may be more suited for the “tweens,” ages 9-14.) I haven’t read any of them yet, but the folks on my team have recommended them highly. If you or your teen read them, please let me know what you think!
- God King by Joanne Williamson
- Hittite Warrior by Joanne Williamson
- Foundlings (The Peleg Chronicles #1) by Matthew Christian Harding
- Many Waters by Madeleine L’Engle
- The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare
- Vinegar Boy by Alberta Hawse
- Twice Freed by Patricia St. John
- Supernatural components in YA novels help teens transition from childhood to adulthood.
- Scripture records supernatural encounters with humanity-true stories that teach us life lessons.
- Find 7 YA biblical novels in this blog post that can stir the imagination of your tween or teen!
- What Bible story was your favorite as a kid? Why?