Monday, January 9, 2012

Violence in YA by S. R. Johannes author of Untraceable

by SR Johannes
Available Now
Amazon, Kindle, Barnes and Noble

16 year old Grace has lived in the Smokies all her life, patrolling with her forest ranger father who taught her about wildlife, tracking, and wilderness survival.

When her dad goes missing on a routine patrol, Grace refuses to believe he’s dead and fights the town authorities, tribal officials, and nature to find him.

One day, while out tracking clues, Grace is rescued from danger by Mo, a hot guy with an intoxicating accent and a secret. As her feelings between him and her ex-boyfriend get muddled, Grace travels deep into the wilderness to escape and find her father.

Along the way, Grace learns terrible secrets that sever relationships and lives. Soon she’s enmeshed in a web of conspiracy, deception, and murder. And it’s going to take a lot more than a compass and a motorcycle (named Lucifer) for this kick-butting heroine to save everything she loves.

Today, I have S.R. Johannes on my blog with a guest post directly related to her book.  I found it very interesting and hope you do too!
Thank you Shelli for your post, I think it points out something very true and it made me think.

 Young adult books - what is too violent?

I read a comment about my book, Untraceable, last week that made me think about violence as a topic. The comment said that because my book had some graphic things happen to animals, it might be considered too adult for YA. It might be too violent for teens.

This comment interested me. 

It made me question – what is too violent for teens? I mean, Hunger Games has kids killing kids. Teen books touch on self-mutilation, rape, zombie killing, vampire killings, dystopic worlds, monsters, suicide. But those topics are fine for teens. 

But because my book has some animal abuse in it and touches on animal poaching, suddenly it is too violent for teens? But why?

And I realized something. Is it the realness of it? Not the topic itself.

Dystopic books and paranormal books – even if they are very violent at times – seem okay for teens because we – as readers – KNOW in our hearts and in our minds that those things are NOT real. And that they would never happen. Kids will never kill kids in an arena for fun. Vampires will never rip the throats out of their wolf enemies. And most likely (though some may disagree :), we will never be chopping the heads off of zombie killers.

These “fake” topics allow teens/us to be detached from these books b/c they is an underlying barrier of them knowing it could never happen. This keeps them slightly removed. It separates us from the reality of it.

My book is a wilderness thriller that skims the issue of bear poaching. There are only about 10 pages out of 320 pages (especially in 1 or 2 specific chapters) that touch on this issue in depth. Yet, even those 10 pages are the ones that stick out in reader’s mind. Part of me says, good. That means you care.

But why does it bother so many people more than the Hunger Games and the Zombie Apocalypse? Because it is REAL. Bear poaching and mutilation really happen. Even today, in a world where we think they don’t, they do. We just don’t hear about it. And realizing those horrible things are real, is disturbing, which make the book seem more violent. 

Also – we are more desensitized to people killings and humans dying. But when it comes to animals, we pay attention. Think of Independence Day, after a tunnel of people have been burned by a huge fireball, all we care about is that the dog make it out of the car and into the bunker. We don’t care that 100,000 people just burned. We care about the one dog that MIGHT not make it. I guess because animals seem more defenseless – so then it becomes more violent in the readers mind. 

When writing Untraceable, I wanted to write a book that said something important to teens. That touched on real issues that they could do something about. 

I hope these few pages do touch people. As violent as they may seem, I hope they surprise a teen/reader, raise awareness about the black bear’s plight, and cause enough emotion for teens to act.


Thanks Shellie and based on reviews it looks like a lot of people are caring what you wrote about! My review will be coming later in the year. Remember the NetGalley crazy.



  1. You make some great points. I agree that the violence in paranormal or dystopian books are easier to take because we know it isn't real. And my brothers and I were just talking about War Horse and how it was sad when the people died, but we were absolutely devastated when the animals were abused and/or died. What you portray in Untraceable is real, unfortunately, and certainly relevant to the plot, and making people aware and thinking about an issue is always important. Great post!

  2. "Think of Independence Day, after a tunnel of people have been burned by a huge fireball, all we care about is that the dog make it out of the car and into the bunker. "

    This is very true, I was screaming for that dog to move faster and didn't even give so much as a grunt for any of the people to get moving! I think you're right about the realness of it, as horrifying as The Hunger Games is, the barrier you mentioned is there, allowing us to disregard some of the violence because we know that's not taking place somewhere at this exact moment. Such an interesting post!!!

  3. I totally agree with what Alyssa and Jenny have said. I remember that part in Independence Day and would have stopped watching it if that dog didn't make it. In my profile at the top I say I don't watch Disney movies with animals in it because they make me cry. Think of Bambi. Hunters kill his mother and leave him alone to raise himself. It's a hard life lesson, but I think children don't realize the implications. I sure do!

    I haven't read the Hunger Games, but I've certainly read enough horrible things in novels and been able to dismiss it. After all it was just in a book. But I change the channel at the ASPCA commercials with the emaciated dogs and cry at the stories of neglected animals. I do think it's because of their vulnerability and defenselessness. Just like children. Alyssa is braver than me, War Horse would never be on my list of movies to see.

    I don't think your story is any more violent than other stories, it's just harder to take because it's real, like you said. The other stories are an escape from reality, yours is based in reality and the ugly truth is harder to accept. And I didn't know about Black Bear poaching, not knowing about it makes me feel even worse.


  4. I agree, the more realistic the violence, the harder it is face. We feel safely far-away from the Hunger Games.

  5. I have to admit, I totally avoid animal abuse in films. I just can't take it. However, I think it is important to face abuse in society to change it. You cannot change what you hide from. Kids are pretty smart. We need to trust them more.

  6. Great post and good food for thought! Very interesting.



  7. INteresting comments guys - thanks for coming by.

    speaking of violence, I had a mom today ask me at bkstore if the book was okay for 14 year old.

    I said "well it has a little violence."

    her: "Ok I dont care about violence. does it have an sex?"

    I almost spit chai teat out my nose. awkward!


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