So, currently I am subsisting on a reading diet of War Horse and The Hunger Games. As literature for young people goes, it's fairly relentless in terms of engagement with the darker side of things which happen to humans. Being blown up, shot, starved, mistreated. Political bigwigs being prepared to let children and young people die for what the government believe in (in both books). I mean it's great, and it's powerful, but a little bit harrowing.
We got to talking in Year 10 about the concept of bravery. One of the class said that he wasn't sure whether the kids in The Hunger Games are brave or not because they didn't have any choice in the matter. It's not to say that they don't show courage and bravery - but when life hands you something over which you have no choice, bravery can be quite a flimsy concept.
This resonated very strongly with me. When Mum died and people described me as "brave", it made me quite upset. I didn't want to be brave - it seemed like a pretty crap consolation prize for not having her. I'd rather have been a total and complete yellow-bellied wuss and still have a Mum. I felt as though bravery was being foisted upon me. Sometimes "you're brave" can feel a bit like shorthand for "I'm really glad this isn't happening to me." I think there's definitely a place for that in books - in fact that's part of what books are for, in my opinion - to try out different potential scenarios; think how it might feel, experience some of the emotions at a safe distance.