Young Adult Taboos: Oh, The Horror Of It!

I’ve got a YA fantasy thriller knocking around out there and have pulled in about 12 publisher rejections. Yet, I’ve also yanked in four offers, but declined them all. I’m just looking for a better deal. I’m fairly new to the YA category (two years) and something just struck me last week after another rejection. This rejection pointed out that my manuscript was unsuitable because it contained pot, underage alcohol consumption, some dated slang and a stereotypical American Indian character. I was only interested in trying to decipher the reason for the pot and alcohol comments (actually had two different editors remark about this). I’ve got a 16, 18, 19 and 20 year-old cast. Now if these were Christian publishers I could well understand it. They were not, nor did they stipulate that such behavior would not be tolerated anywhere in their YA guidelines or mission statement.

I just couldn’t understand it at all. The pot scene involves a blunt being passed around and they all take a couple of swigs of liquor from a flask. The scene is tiny and disappears in a flash, never to be repeated again. Now, as far as reality goes, this type of behavior was part of my teenage years and just about included everyone else around me. I don’t think it’s gone the way of the dodo today and might even be a bit more prevalent. I was just very surprised because it was highlighted in the rejections. It’s seems that all the other Rs, and even the offers, paid no mind to it at all, or I certainly would have heard about it in some fashion. I’m all for more moral turpitude but I’m crafting realistic fiction here with some real teenagers who are not dyed in the wool, church-going WASPs. I could understand plenty of this type of consumption in urban or ghetto fiction–it’s part of the whole essence.

So here’s my question to you–was I really out of line in exploring these taboos? Are some publishers apt to run with these types of scenes without it bothering them? Is this an editorial preference and variable to the specific publishing house? It seems to me that many publishers will run with it and others are dead set against it.

I guess the way to interpret a publisher’s moral stance is to read a few of their books in this category and genre and see what goes. I just haven’t had the time to read all those books since I’m watching my pocketbook lately. I suppose one could read the mission statement of the publisher or even the tone of the book blurbs to get a hint.

Anyway–short blog post here. You’re welcome to chime in on this one and let this old bird know wass up with this type of subject matter.

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