The Joys of Sarcastic Teens
By S.E. Clancy
There’s nothing like an eyeroll from your teenager first thing in the morning. Just start that second cup of coffee brewing.
Welcome, friends, to the realm of Young Adult readers. This is where older teen and young adult heroes and heroines thwart injustice, fight government plots, or simply relish in a summertime adventure. On a rare occasion, a parental figure will name an appearance. Usually to make a dimwitted decision or in a picture to remind the reader that there’s no one to help the main character.
Because a greater portion of YA readers know all of the answers. Or pretending to know everything is close enough. Those of us who survived that perpetual ebb and flow part of life look back and see it differently. But we still have those rose-colored glasses and remember when…
I’m speaking from a spot of experience. I grew up rather sheltered as a pastor’s kid. What I learned about cussing and sex from overheard conversations is now on bumper stickers and nearly every television show. Unless you live on a commune with no internet, the pervasiveness of what is readily accepted in society now is available with a swipe of a finger.
God thought it’d be hilarious to bless me with two daughters, who are now teenagers. At the same time. Holy hormones! One of the questions I wrestled with as my oldest blasted through books at the library was how to give her “clean reads.”
What’s a clean read? The concept is pretty straightforward: no swearing, no sex. Let me tell you how difficult it is to find those gems now. That’s where I got into trouble, though. I lamented the lack of material and made the off-handed comment that I could write better than some of the stuff that is out there. Hands on hips, my oldest looked at me and said, “Fine. Do it.”
Me and my big mouth. But why turn from a challenge when I can prove my kid wrong?
My first novel was awful. I’ve tried to read back through it a few times and cringe. The characters are shallow. Their motives are basic. The plot is predictable. And she loved it. What magic did I put into her breakfast to warrant such praise?
She didn’t mind my shortcomings because she got wrapped up in the story. Those superficial main characters had flaws like anger and doubt. The same kind of things I saw my own kid struggle with. I wrote about friends who didn’t stick around. Disappointment. And hope.
Call me a dirty cheater, but I really used the material in front of me. I still do. The person who sent me a random text with a picture of her knee hair? In a book. A conversation with a friend who worked at a care facility where a client only spoke French? Fully fleshed-out book outline. The roadside down the street from me? One of the main character’s name in my debut YA: Marigold.
If you’ve made it this far in the article, I commend you. You’ve also caught my underlying sarcasm. I write, eat, and breathe sarcasm and make it relevant in my books. God said “Thou shall not kill” not “Thou shall not thrill.”
There is a fine line between sass and inappropriate. It gives me leverage in my stories, a place that many Christian authors shy from. I embrace the snark, sprinkle it with hope, and spread it like Nutella on toast. I kept writing for my kids and honed my sassy voice to shine through. To be able to reach a reader through that gift is just as important as touching a grieving heart. It is less “JESUS LOVES YOU!” and more “Hey, dork, Jesus needs ya to get it through your thick skull.” Kinda like a helping your friend up from the floor after you’ve laughed.
Sarcasm can be a glint of hope for some in dark places where verses and Christian sayings have been thrown like candy from a parade float. It uses that edge to crack the shadows and let hope in. Or even the story of hope. And on the heels of hope, love pokes its nose around.
Jesus used different stories to get his message out to varied crowds. I am no Son of Man, but He loves my readers more than I ever could. It would be a pity to let my God-given sarcasm go to waste when maybe someone needed a snarky heroine to show them hope.
Want to hear more about Young Adult fiction?
Read Hannah Currie’s take on Princess YA Fiction
Listen to Sarah Clancy’s Podcast on unExpressed!
Where she and publisher David White talk about her upcoming release Victoria Grace the Jerkface, her love of sarcasm, hatred of condiments and how to navigate the difficulties of raising teens in the modern age.