It seems as if every time I go to a bookstore it’s always such a struggle for me to find the YA Christian fiction section. And once I do find it, there are only a few shelves holding books from this genre. I then look at the YAF section and notice rows and rows of books, the covers of these novels filled with filthy images. For teens. And most of them contain all of the same storylines: teen drama, love stories, summer, and change. And vampires, of course. But most of these books are doing nothing but infecting the minds of teenagers. The authors are providing teens with the stories that we adore because it’s what we dream of or can relate to. If YAF is so popular now, then why isn’t YACF? Many teens have told me it’s because the books they have read in this genre have been cheesy, preachy, or boring. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Most of the time, a teen's view of Christianity and God is going to be based on the Christians around them, including the YA Christian fiction books that they read. And if they're boring and preachy, then they'll want nothing to do with Christianity. They'd rather read the YA fiction that doesn't preach to them, that reaches them on their level, that satisfies their desires accordingly. If they read even just one book in YACF that is cheesy/preachy/boring, they're not going to give this genre another try. Think about it. If you were a nonbeliever and knew someone who was a Christian who always tried preaching to you, shoving religion down your throat, and whose life is so boring because all that she/he does is read the Bible - would that attract you to God? No. That would only leave you with a bad impression of Christianity. And you’re going to want nothing to do with that religion.
I believe one of the reasons that YACF isn't as popular as YAF is because of these types of books. We have to keep in mind that it's not just Christians reading this genre, it is often non-Christians who pick up the book not realizing that it is Christian—or pick it up because of great reviews, a cool cover with an interesting back cover blurb, a recommendation from a friend, etc.
You don't want to preach to them. You want to offer them a story that believers and nonbelievers alike can both enjoy. But how can authors do this? How can we present Christianity in YA fiction without sounding cheesy, boring, or preachy?
- Provide the same elements that teens love, except offer a clean alternative with a Christian perspective.
The decisions teens make during these crucial years can affect us for years to come. It’s during this time of our life that decisions are made to set the course of our future. This is why I believe YA Christian fiction could be such a powerful ministry—if only authors knew which elements to include in their stories and how to use fiction to reach all of our youth culture in a subtle, yet profound way.
Why do you think this genre is small and not so popular?
If you’re teen, do you read YA Christian fiction?
Why or why not?
What other elements should YACF authors include
in their stories—
or perhaps leave out?