Why the Genre Term “Young Adult Literature” is Dangerous

Young Adult

I hate the term “Young Adult Literature.” Teens and children are NOT young adults and they never will be young adults. Twelve and under are children or kids. Thirteen to eighteen are teens or adolescents. Eighteen years old is the beginning of young adulthood in America, and the adult brain isn’t fully formed until age twenty-one plus. That’s real science, not my opinion.

I point this out because it’s a major theme in my writing. America seems bound and determined to rob children of their childhood. Even on such supposedly safe channels as Nickelodeon and Disney, shows often depict kids as young as ten or eleven pursuing romantic relationships.

These storylines put ideas into the heads of kids at home that there must be something wrong with them if they don’t want a boyfriend or girlfriend in elementary or middle school. Kids that age should NOT be pursuing such complicated and stressful relationships. They should be building friendships that are strong and binding. Developmentally, they are figuring out who they are as individuals and don’t need the pressures of a “relationship” they can’t fully understand and don’t actually want. I talked to an eleven-year-old recently who said he wanted a girlfriend. When I asked why, he didn’t have an answer. I know the answer – it’s because the media keeps pushing that idea and kids always want to “fit in” with whatever is the current trend. Why the media pushes romantic, and by extension sexual, relationships on children is a disturbing question to ponder. No good can come of such poisoning of children’s minds and souls in this fashion, and yet we as a society allow it to happen. That’s scary.

There’s another, even more insidious aspect to labeling kids “young adults.” Children today are exposed to more and more adult behaviors, usually bad ones, and when they copy those behaviors they are expelled from school or arrested. If the behaviors are really serious and somebody gets hurt, these children are put into adult court and sentenced to prison. I know a large number of them personally. I’ve spent time with seven and eight year olds in juvenile hall. Children reflect the society in which they grow up, and America is teaching them how to be self-absorbed consumers with little regard for others. Maybe that’s the plan – keep them self-absorbed with “me” centered behaviors and they won’t challenge the status quo. If kids, i.e. the next generation, don’t challenge the status quo, corruption and greed win every time.

Young children can be tried as adults in many states and the media always labels these kids “young men” or “young women.” Why? Because readers or viewers won’t feel sorry for them and think of them as the damaged children they actually are. Even when children do something positive, they are still referred to with those factually and morally misleading terms “young men” and “young women.” It’s clearly an agenda designed to benefit adults. There’s no other explanation. If society decides children are “little adults,” then anything goes with those kids, right? They can be put into prison, used sexually, or forced to work so parents or guardians can make money off of them.

My Children of the Knight series explores these themes in depth. My young characters rebel against societal brainwashing and use social media to galvanize their peers across the country to do the same. A revolution ensues that continues in the latest installment, Warrior Kids: A Tale of New Camelot. Children and teens are the only ones who can make society better because they will run it some day. Brainwashing them to obsess over themselves – as though kids don’t do this enough already – is the easiest way to ensure that those in power across the board won’t be challenged. Sadly, the tactic seems to be working. It’s my hope that kids who read my books will come to the same awareness as my characters about what is really going on and feel empowered to rise up and stop it.

Vigilant parents keep their kids away from media, and screen everything, within reason, that kids watch or read. And allow their children to grow developmentally along natural milestones. Rushing children to “behave” like adults is a net negative. Far too many adults are poor role models. These adults don’t want to make the world better for kids because they personally benefit from how it is now. I don’t want my children copying the behaviors of most “famous” people, or even characters in so much of what passes for children’s entertainment these days, because then my kids will become part of the problem, not the solution.

So yes, I decry the term “Young Adult” applied to children and teen lit. It’s just an excuse to distract kids by putting more adult material into their books, mostly sexual material, and get away with it because the books are for “young adults.” No, they’re not. These books are for kids who are still developing and are not young adults and never will be young adults until they actually grow into young adults. I write books for teens and tweens that can be enjoyed by adults of all ages. Now I just have to convince the rest of the industry to call teen lit what it is – teen lit. If more parents complained on a grass roots level and emailed publishers and Amazon to replace that “Young Adult” moniker, we could seriously challenge the status quo. Or we could just succumb to the brainwashing and do nothing. I prefer to challenge. And then go after Disney and Nickelodeon.

Anyone with me?

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Michael J. Bowler

Michael J. Bowler Amazon Page

Should 14-year-olds Have the Right to Vote?

Children of the Knight Mid Res CoverIn the United States today a citizen must be 18 years old to vote in any federal, state or local elections. How many of you out there believe, as I do, that the voting age should be lowered to fourteen? A crazy idea? Let’s explore it, shall we?

The cons are easiest to start with since most adults would instantly say them: Fourteen-year-olds aren’t mature enough. Heard that one before? Fourteen year olds aren’t smart enough. Fourteen year olds aren’t educated enough. Fourteen year olds are just kids and they don’t have any life experience to go by. How about this one – if we let them vote, they’ll get to sit on juries. Then what’s next – they drop out of school and join the work force? That would cheapen the adult workers because non-union kids would work for less and take jobs away from adults! And if they can vote, they’ll want to drive cars and join the military. That would undermine the entire social fabric because we’d have a bunch of immature kids on equal footing with mature and capable adults. Are these arguments sound? Do they seem reasonable to you? Is it idiotic to allow fourteen-year-old kids to “be” adults and participate fully in the adult decision-making world? Maybe. Maybe not.

How many of you out there are aware that in 45 out of 50 states, juveniles as young as fourteen, sometimes thirteen, are already considered legal adults? You didn’t know this? Oh, maybe that’s because the adult voters in those states decided that juveniles are adults in only one way – when they get in trouble with the law. In every other way, hell no, they’re just immature kids who don’t know anything! But when it comes to crime, to life in the streets, to gangs and their overreaching influence, to resisting peer pressure – suddenly and magically they become adults. But only for that moment when they made the bad choice. Oddly enough, when they do something good or positive for society, they’re still just punk-ass kids who know nothing and should be seen but not heard, and sometimes not even seen unless they’re good-looking or get good grades.

Make sense to you? How many of you out there truly believe that thirteen or fourteen-year-olds can be an adult today to get caught up in a crime, but not be an adult tomorrow to sit on the jury to hear that crime, or to vote on the very laws that “adultified” them in the first place?

I have spent my entire life working with kids, particularly teenagers. And they’re not adults. Not yet, even though many states like to pretend they are when they get in trouble. Kids don’t have the experience to process feelings like we do, and they can’t reason things out as well. It’s not built in yet. This country wants to pretend children are adults so we can put them in prison when they screw up because we are too lazy and caught up in ourselves to give them a second chance, or a third, or even a fourth. Kids screw up. That’s been the case throughout all of human history, and when they do, those kids need adults to help them become better so they don’t keep screwing up. They don’t need adults who just want to toss them into prison, out of sight and out of mind.

Too many adults in this country want kids to be magically grown up so they don’t have to parent them and role model for them and set good examples for them, but the bottom line is children are children and need to be allowed to be children. Children can’t, and never will, think and feel like adults because they aren’t adults. Not yet. And the adult society in this country has a throw-away mentality. If the kid screws up, throw him away. We’ll just get another. That’s like the farmer who leaves the barn unlocked and his horse escapes and tramples his crops. Farmer’s solution? Shoot the horse and just buy another. After all, it was the horse’s fault right, for trampling the crops?

So we return to my original question – should fourteen-year-olds be allowed to vote and by extension sit on juries to hear the cases against them? I say yes. If, in our collective idiocy, we are going to pretend they’re adults for doing something wrong, then they sure as hell can be adults to do something right! Or are we, as country, simply afraid of our young people? We seem to be incarcerating a vast number these days, so the answer would appear to be yes. But are we even more afraid of giving them the power to decide laws, to elect presidents and representatives, to pass or reject propositions that would seek to criminalize them just for being kids?

I say if fourteen-year-olds are adult enough to commit a crime then they are more than adult enough to vote! Who’s with me? C’mon, people, let’s start a revolution. . . a children’s crusade for equal rights. . .

Sir Lance says, “I’m fourteen-years-old. I can go to prison, but I can’t drive a car. Crazy, huh?”

Arthur’s Camelot and Its Relevance to 21st Century America

The story of King Arthur and his Round Table of knights has great relevance to modern America in the 21st Century, especially within the context of my new novel, Children of the Knight.

First of all, the Britain of Arthur’s time was a fractured, divisive land with disparate groups of peoples like the Gauls, the Gales, the Normans and others vying for power and prestige.  In America today, many in the public sector make their livelihood and base their political survival on pitting this group against that group or this race against that one and they never allow for real unity because with unity might come an end to said public person’s career and funding base. The media is even worse, always stirring the pot, often by dispensing inaccurate or incomplete information in the hopes of generating controversy. In simpler terms, divisiveness is profitable.

When Arthur became High King of Britain his first order of business was to unite all the distinct groups warring against him and each other, which he eventually did through numerous costly battles. However, once done, he had to keep the peace, so as he tells young Lance in Children of the Knight, “I gave them all a purpose in life other than hating one another.” He brings that same purpose to the warring gangs and unrelated street kids he recruits as his new Round Table in the newly released novel.

America of today has systematically failed her children in every area of life, from education to criminal justice to media influences. The one-size-must-fit-all-or-you-can-get-out approach to modern public education is disgusting and antithetical to human nature. Since we can never all be the same, what happens to those kids who just don’t “fit” that one size? They drop out, join gangs or crews, do drugs, make babies they can’t take care of, and engage in all manner of anti-social behaviors they have learned from adults. And what about the war adults have waged against gay youth with their preposterous notion that these kids willingly made a choice to love someone of the same gender and thus willingly chose the hate, mockery, bullying, and marginalization that go with being gay in America today? Let’s face it, there are a lot of stupid, selfish people in this country, and kids are paying the price.

In my book, Arthur returns from Avalon and finds all of this discarded and wasted “might” at his disposal, kids no one else wants, most of them boys with a lot of potential energy within them for good or ill. There are a lot of homegirls on the streets, as well, but most gangs are male-dominated because of the sense of empowerment these usually poor, ethnic, marginalized kids desperately seek. Before Arthur, all the combined might of these gangs and street youth has been directed toward the detriment of society because that’s all they’ve been taught by the adult world that raised them. They make war on each other and on the innocent. But Arthur comes along and teaches them discipline through mastery of swordplay and archery, and he convinces them, as he convinced the various factions all those centuries ago in Britain, to put aside their own petty rivalries and use their collected might for right in order to finally gain the power they had previously sought through violence and mayhem.

Arthur’s objective is to win the approval and support of the voting public and use that support to take on the feckless, self-absorbed politicians who run Los Angeles. From LA the crusade will then move on to all of California and then to the country as a whole. Its ultimate goal: restoration of the right of children to be children, and human beings, and not the mere property of adults. Will he succeed? You have to read the book to find out.

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Oh, and why did Arthur come to America rather than Britain? Since his purpose is to save childhood it is also, by extension, to save this most promising child of Britain from itself. After all, a country that fails its children is ultimately doomed to assume a well-earned place on the scrap heap of history.