Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Is it the Author's Job to Create Positive Role Models in YA novels?

I was recently talking with some writer friends and this question came up: 
Is it more important for YA authors to potray realistic characters (that may have a dark side)  or to create positive role models?

Good question. 

There have been some readers who weren't thrilled with the depiction of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow in my YA novel, WANTED; DEAD OR IN LOVE, as being humans with wants and desires all their own. After all, Bonnie & Clyde were hardened criminals from the 1930’s who were in love and committed crime after crime. In my novel, they come back to life within the bodies of two teens, and um, they’re not necessarily typecast as “the bad guys.” 

No doubt about it, Bonnie and Clyde did a lot of horrific things in their day and were eventually gunned down for it by a posse of tough crime fighters called The Texas Rangers. I’m not making excuses for Bonnie and Clyde––it was good they were stopped. Gun downed by a posse of sharp shooters? Not sure about that one. Especially when you factor in the time frame when they lived (The Depression), where they lived (the poorest slum in Texas), and their age when they started to commit their crimes (16 for Clyde, 19 for Bonnie).

I think what I tried to show is that most of us––Bonnie and Clyde included––are not solidly “all good” or “all bad.” Many of us make decisions that seem like a good idea at the time that later turn out to be not-so-great. My main character, a teen girl named Monroe, has always lived by the motto, “You Only Live Once,” but when she faces the counterpart to that, “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time,” she starts to reconsider.

If she could do it all over again, she might say, “Yes, you are in charge of your own destiny. Just make sure it’s the destiny you really want.”

Actual footage taken from Bonnie & Clyde’s death scene in 1934.


So the long and the short of it is...while positive role models are wonderful, I need to trust that teens can "see behind the curtain" and realize that fiction serves many purposes: some to tell the truth, some to make you see the direction you don't want to venture. I did not try to glorify Bonnie and Clyde as heroes, but as teens who made choices that ultimately resulted in their deaths. Definitely NOT something anyone would strive for and I know teens reading my book can figure that out all on their own.

'Til next time, stay safe!



  1. Hmm. Great question! I think that a positive role model is a person who acknowledges his or her "dark side" - deals with it - grows from it - and moves forward making better choices because of it!

  2. Love it - yes! That's exactly it. I'll tell you about the mistakes I've made along the way and perhaps you'll learn from it (....or perhaps you'll need to fail on your own, too). :)



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