Being young isn’t easy.
Most Young Adult fiction that’s being published these days kind of bears that out. But isn’t the nature of storytelling to reflect the real world and real people on some level? At the core, isn’t the goal of YA to provide characters and situations that the readers (both young and old alike) can relate to? Sure, the kids might be vampires. Or aliens. Or wizards. But it’s the universal experience of being young and uncertain, having to figure things out for yourself that tends to unite so many of these books. It’s the real world, after a fashion. Just…amplified. And hightened drama–heightened stakes–make for better stories, right?
We were having a discussion about Young Adult novels a year or two ago, and two things bugged us. Why were the stories so…well, for lack of a better word…bleak? And why was there so little diversity in characters?
The bleak thing has been touched on in the media off and on and the argument seems to be that kids these days know darkness. They’re no stranger to bleak. It’s a hard world, and it’s hard to be a kid in it. And we get that. We really do. Heck, my favorite books when I was young were House of Stairs by William Sleator and Bless the Beasts and the Children by Geldon Swarthout. Now those were some dark books.
But just because a book deals with dark themes doesn’t mean there is no room for a protagonist who overcomes their challenges. There’s one particularly popular series about a boy wizard that gets incredibly freaking dark, but it’s also heroic. And that was something we wanted to see more of. We wanted a reason to cheer. We wanted to be able to shout “HELL YES!” when we were reading.
Then there was the diversity issue. This has been a particular touchy subject for me. Where were the multi-ethnic characters? Turns out I’m not the only one who noticed. Tiana Smith did a breakdown on portrayal of beauty in 50 of last year’s top YA books (compelling reading!) and it turns out that in those, there was only one character of color in those 50 books. And I just don’t get that.
We’re decades past segregation, but we’re still segregating our heroes in our literature. And that’s not an accurate portrayal of the world around us. It just isn’t.
But unlike other readers who have little recourse other than taking to the streets, starting letter writing campaigns, and blogging about the changes we’d like to see, we had another option. After all–we’re a publishing company.
Timid Pirate Publishing has always had a few core guiding principles: ANYONE could be a hero, and we want to tell the stories that we ourselves want to read. And thankfully, we had several authors in the wings who wanted to help us do that. We have three young adult books under the banner of Cobalt City Rookies coming out in a few months (details below), and I’m thrilled to announce they’ve met what we’ve set out to do with flying colors.
We’ve been sitting on the full announcement for some time because, well, we’re a small press. And this is the biggest undertaking we’ve signed on for. We wanted to make sure all our ducks were in a row, and things were proceeding apace. But now, with most of the 2012 lineup in hand, it’s time to show our cards.
Kensei (Jeremy Zimmerman) features a young woman discovering who she is and who she needs to be. Guided by the spirits of Cobalt City, she is a warrior of the night, but during the day she navigates the familiar but still treacherous world of school popularity contests, petty jealousies, bullying, sexual identity, Greek mythology, and junior roller derby. And then there’s that whole matter of an angry god stirring up trouble with golden apples…
Wrecker of Engines (Rosemary Jones) is the culmination of everything Rosemary Jones has written for Timid Pirate since her story in Cobalt City Timeslip as she reintroduces the new generation of the saboteur hero Wrecker of Engines. On the run from the crime families in Hong Kong, an orphaned teen with elite hacking skills comes to Cobalt City to lie low and connect with the past of his mysterious predecessor. But the past has a way of catching up with people in Cobalt City, sometimes in the form of a resurrected mad scientist from over a century ago. The Wrecker has never been much for making friends, but he’s going to need to find some unusual ones if he plans to survive.
Tatterdemalion (Nicole Burns) starts in the wilds of Alaska and a young girl’s desperate struggle for survival. When she returns to Cobalt City to live with her uncle, she brings back more than a new-found confidence–she brings back the tattered remains of a legacy dating back hundreds of years. Forced out of isolation, she has more than new friends, boys, trips to the mall, and what to wear on her mind–she has betrayal, peer-pressure, teen gangs, and mysterious power blackouts that make Cobalt City every bit as deadly as the Alaskan tundra.
We hope you join us in welcoming a new generation of heroes when the books launch later this summer.