The main character in my YA novel Dark Ride, Bel, is a feisty lass. She isn’t afraid to speak out against things she believes to be wrong or unfair, and she’s appalled when she comes across casual racism in the small town she has moved to with her mum, the fictional seaside resort of Slumpton. Bel also discovers that people trafficking has been taking place there on a big scale and is prepared to take on dangerous local criminals to get to the truth.
I’ve been asked many times whether Bel is like me. I have to admit that she is much, much braver than I have ever been. But this has got me thinking about the way I used to react to injustice as a young adult and how I am now, all these years later.
I used to be someone who could argue for hours over topics I believed passionately in. I would take on people who I thought had misguided or unpleasant views, whether they were taxi drivers, random strangers in a pub, or even family members.
It’s just possible that I was a tiny bit of a pain in the neck at times because of this. (Hmm...)
Anyway, these days I would be much more likely to let a comment I disagreed with pass to keep the peace . And that’s not a good thing.
One of the things I love about young people is that emotions burn brightly and with real passion when you’re this age. These emotions can turn into actions that literally change the world. For example, the average age of the people who protested in the countries involved in the Arab Spring, when various dictatorships were overthrown in the Middle East ,was between 18-32.
When I was at university I had a postcard on my wall that featured words by Martin Niemöller, prominent German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor.
"In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up."
These words made a tremendous impression on me at the time. Reading them again now they help remind me that even small acts of rebellion against injustice can have meaning and worth.
I don’t tend to roll up my sleeves and get verbally scrapping so much these days. But I wonder if I let my characters do it for me?
Caroline Green is a journalist and writer of fiction for young adults. Her first novel, Dark Ride, was published in May 2011 and her next book, Cracks, will be out in May 2012.