Religion in YA & NA– Or well, Lack Thereof

I have actually had this topic on my mind for quite awhile. Okay, really I thought about it almost a year ago but never decided to write down my thoughts until recently. After finishing Lisa Desrochers’s  A Little Too Far, I decided to sit down and put my thoughts on paper. In the book, Alessandro Moretti has given his life to God…He’s also one of the few book characters that I’ve noticed that is influenced heavily by religion.

Think about it. Can you name five novels off the top of your head that mention religion? Or well, religion in a serious matter? While I typed this post, I can think of two – the book mentioned above and When We Wake by Karen Healy. I’ve read hundreds of books and yet, I can only mention two when it comes to the topic of religion…interesting, isn’t it?

This is what makes me think. Why do books generally stray away from religion? Now, I’m mainly only going to be talking about young adult [and sorta kinda New Adult since A Little too Far is NA] books; I’m sure that there are more adult novels that deal with religion than there are in the YA genre. Why is this?

Religion is part of human culture. No matter where you are from, the people from your country have beliefs of higher beings, or higher meanings of life. No matter where you go, a majority of the population identifies with a certain religion. Clearly, most of the United States is Christian. Not only that, but there are many other prominent religions in the US that grow every day.

Almost every YA book I read barely mentions religion. This confuses me. No matter where I go, I meet someone who identifies with a certain religion. I know people who live very religiously; I also know people who laugh at religion, and other people that are atheist. If, as one person, I am encountering all of this diversity, shouldn’t characters in books be the same?

Over time, I have decided that authors do not write religion into books because they want to connect with as many readers as they can. [I know that in most cases, the character writes the story, not the author, but I’m gonna disregard that for the moment.] It’s true; I know more teens/young adults that are not religious. I come to the conclusion that people that are not religious do not want to read about religion, especially if it’s something he or she doesn’t believe in. By having a book stay neutral, the book has a better chance of becoming more popular.

As much as I understand this, I do not think that should be the reason [if that is the reason] why religion isn’t put into books. I loved reading When We Wake because a few prominent characters are Muslim. I’m not Muslim, but I found it really cool to be reading about a different religion. Personally, I love reading about other cultures and learning about the way other people live.

So to all writers: if your faith is calling to be put onto paper, do not hesitate to do so. Religion is very important in human lives, whether it is a part of your life or not. Fiction, although unrealistic, still portrays real aspects of the human life; religion is one of the main aspects. When I talk about wanting more diversity in books, I’m not just talking about characters of color; I want all the aspects of life that make it beautiful.

Now my questions to you: Why do you think religion isn’t prominent in YA? And have you read any books where religion stands out?

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