Meet Peyton Garver.
As a child, Peyton called places like Livorno, Italy; Orléans, France; and Augsburg, Germany home. She has since settled in Maryland, where she earned her degree in education at Towson State University, married her sweetheart of two years, and became an instant mother to three spirited young boys before adding another son to the brood. And, with their yellow lab George, it’s no stretch to say she’s outnumbered.
When not writing, Peyton is a fulltime high school teacher. Inspired by the individual spirits, heartaches, and triumphs of her students, Peyton has developed characters who resemble real world teens dealing with real issues: relationships, jealousy, bullying, and depression. Her newest novel, Sublime Karma, is a contemporary story filled with emotion, depth, wit, and suspense.
Social Media Links:
“Writing Edgy Contemporary YA Responsibly”
There are so many subgenres for YA literature: fantasy, dystopian, science fiction, adventure, horror, historical fiction, steampunk, paranormal and many more, all of which readers must rely on their imagination and world building of the author. And, there is nothing wrong with that. It’s easy to get absorbed into stories that sweep us away and allow us to escape into a world of imagination. I enjoy reading YA dystopian and science fiction. I loved the Divergent dystopian series, while Ender’s Game is my favorite science fiction.
But, with contemporary YA, the story is relatable and the issues are real. My book, Sublime Karma, is a coming-of-age story where my characters grow and change because of their real-life experiences. The characters face the tough issues of jealousy, bullying, isolation, relationships, trust, loss, and depression. The same issues that so many teens deal with every day. Coming-of-Age contemporary stories, although fiction, are relatable and often come with life lessons.
Sublime Karma falls into the category of edgy contemporary YA with the tough issues of self-harm, attempted suicide, and abuse. It is written for older teens, not tweens or younger teens. This was a difficult book to write. As a teacher, I’ve had experience with some of the themes I’ve included in Sublime Karma. Why was it difficult you might ask? Of course, the topics are sensitive, but more difficult than writing about sensitive topics is how to write about those topics responsibly. On that note, I would like to refer you to this enlightening article by Hannah Heath, “Six Problems with Edgy YA Fiction”: She describes negative issues with edgy YA. And, for the most part I whole heartedly agree. But, that doesn’t mean I would shy away from writing it. As I wrote, I knew I needed to be cognizant of the fact that my readers are impressionable, and while I believe the topics I’ve addressed are important and need to have light shed on them, I also knew I must do so in a responsible manner. Hannah’s first point was that difficult issues such as self-harm and suicide are romanticized. I do have scenes of self-harm and one scene of the aftermath of an attempted suicide, but in so doing, I wanted the reader to understand the character without glorifying or condemning the act stressing that the character is suffering and needs help. And, their acts also affect others.
Secondly, Hannah points out that there is a lack of nice characters. One of the early reviewers for Sublime Karma wrote this about one of my main characters:
Jake I absolutely loved in this book. He was the jock, but he really wasn’t. This kid had a heart of gold. He wasn’t one that just did things to be noticed. He had a lot going on and he made time for his sister which is pretty awesome. With Jake he was all in all the time. He took life a little too seriously at times, but he had to grow up fast. He was one of the strongest teens I have seen in a book in a long time.”
For contemporary YA it is likely that the reader can identify people they know in real life who are similar to characters in the story. Ultimately the reader should be able to experience the growth of the characters, especially the MCs. Believable characters and compelling plots are both key to all YA fiction. Speaking of compelling plots in contemporary writing, keeping it real is important. In edgy YA it gives a glimpse into some tough issues that all readers have not experienced but may be curious about…another reason to approach it responsibly. Just because it’s edgy, it doesn’t mean it has to glamorize a specific act or tempt a reader.
Hannah’s third point is the prominence of sexual situations. I agree. Thus, the heat level of Sublime Karma is sweet. I didn’t want sexual relations to be the focal point of the story. Hannah goes on to make three more points in her article. To be honest, I didn’t see this article before my book was published as the article hadn’t yet been written. The take-away here is that it is possible to write edgy YA responsibly for a young adult audience.