Last week, I had a piece in Slate about the growing market for Christian YA fiction written for girls.
It was posted just a few hours before I set off for a internet-access-less journey to Illinois and Iowa (come quickly, new iPhone), so I’m only getting around to posting it now. Here’s the nut graf:
Created as a “safe” alternative to mainstream fiction, books for Christian girls include wholesome heroines, lots of praying, and absolutely no cursing. And they’re a big business. The Christy Miller and Sierra Jensen series—now Christian YA classics—have sold more than 2 million copies between them, and the Diary of a Teenage Girl books have sold more than 600,000 copies since 2008. Most Christian publishers have guidelines for taboo words and situations, and some also have in-house theologians vet content to make sure it adheres to “Biblical principles.” Amid all of this piety, however, are explicitly positive—even feminist—messages like positive body image, hard work, and the importance of not settling for just any guy—that present a grounded alternative to the Gossip Girl landscape.
I read a towering stack of these novels for the piece, including the Christian “Twilight” knockoff “Thirsty,” in which the vampire is a hippie type who’s really into incense and yoga. It’s nice to know some things about hard-core evangelical pop culture haven’t changed since my youth – even the most innocuous “Eastern” phenomena are portrayed as somehow devilish. I will say, however, that although “Thirsty” isn’t a “good” book, I couldn’t put it down.
But if you’re going to pick one of these to read, I recommend Cindy Martinusen-Coloma’s “Beautiful,” about a high school girl disfigured in a car accident. It was head and shoulders above the rest in terms of emotional complexity, the realism of the characters’ beliefs, and the quality of the writing.
I have lots more to say on this topic, but other duties call. Hope I can return to it in the days and weeks to come. In the meantime, you can find others’ responses here, here, and here, among other places. And check out the piece!