The question of the importance of faith in YA books was brought to my attention last night when, after posting my review of The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (which was so glowing, a blind person could see the light), I got over 15 individual comments, tweets, and emails that basically went like this: "Oh, it sounds good, but I don't know about the religion, so I probably won't read it."
That about killed me because The Girl of Fire and Thorns is probably one of the best books I've read so far this year, and for people to dismiss it because some form of religion was in it seems so baseless and silly. As I mentioned after the review, there are a lot of really popular fantasy and science-fiction books out there with some sort of religion unique to the setting, so why is this book any different in the reactions it is receiving?
I can appreciate that not everyone is religious, and as a Christian girl who grew up attending a Lutheran private school, I'm very used to dealing with people telling me they disagree with my beliefs, or that my faith is wrong or misplaced. People disagreeing with me is fine. But what I can't seem to understand is why in the YA genre, where every other subject is no longer taboo, faith is too often pushed to the side. Books with faith in them, in general, receive the reactions that I received upon the posting of my review, and so many people simply won't give them a try.
We've always said that YA is about exploring those subjects that are hard, that are difficult to talk about, that have to deal with learning and growing up. And like it or not, religion plays into that. I believe that a very integral part of your teenage years is deciding what you believe. And when it comes to deciding what you believe, religion is taken into consideration.
Another thing that perturbs me is the intolerance I've encountered. Just because you've decided that you want nothing to do with religion doesn't mean that you shouldn't give books that have elements of it a try. And I do realize that this is a very subjective issue, but it just bothers me to see perfectly good books dismissed because they might mention a god. I'm a Christian, but I really do find it fascinating to read books with Mormon, Jewish, Muslim, and any other religious characters. They're a part of our society and culture, and I believe it's important to know more about them and their customs, even if I might disagree with their faith. Not every writer who writes about religion has some secret agenda to shove their beliefs down your throat, or try to convert you, despite the growing amount of bad press that those people receive.
The bottom line: It's okay to disagree with others' beliefs...it's not so cool to be intolerant or ignorant. Keep an open mind, be willing to read and learn about new things, and don't pass up a good book because there might be a trace of religion in it.
I'm going to be compiling a list of books that have to do with faith and religion--any religion--over the next couple of days, which I'll post here. What do you all think about faith in YA? Is it important? Which books have you read and enjoyed that have dealt with faith and religion?