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On Guard! A Fib To Watch For in Fiction

Last night, somewhere around midnight, I finished a YA fantasy duology that proved disappointing. Despite engaging writing, a unique concept, and really solid characters, I was unbalanced by the overarching message of moral relativity that seemed to come out of left field.

Essentially, at the end of the first book, the reader is told that life and its choices are not black and white, but a spectrum of all the shades of grey in between. And while it's true that every choice can be examined from infinite angles with infinite viewpoints, our perspective has absolutely no bearing on right and wrong themselves. If morality depended only on where we're standing, absolutely anything could be justified, and while I think the protagonist gains some of that understanding in book two, book one and its message of moral flexibility still left a bad taste in my mouth.

YA is notorious for young protagonists thrust into adult positions and forced to grapple with grey morality when it comes to the greater good. Some arrive at the correct conclusion—that right and wrong are true absolutes regardless of the character's perspective. Others don't address the question at all, but leave the messy elements unglorified, and honour the characters' more virtuous choices in their proper places. I much prefer that to an overt message of a moral free-for-all. Reading mainstream fiction sometimes requires a suspension of belief . . . but it should not ask us to justify the unjustifiable.

My first reaction to these discoveries when reading is always discouragement—especially when the story concept itself is promising and well-executed, negative elements aside. But moral relativity is a pernicious lie that can do a lot of damage in a young person's mind—and it's the well-executed stories that have the power to wreak the most havoc.

To be clear, I'm not condemning anyone, or commanding anyone to read or cease to read something they don't feel convicted of. But this is something I think we should watch out for as young readers, something we should be cognizant of and armed against. And it's something we can fight with stories of our own, so if you have a tale to tell that could turn the tide in the battle between truth and deception, unsheath your pen and write yourself into the fray! (Also, let me know so I can fall in love with it!) You will not be alone.

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