Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Wall Street Journal Article on YA- My Views

Song of the Day: Wake up Everybody by John Legend and The Roots feat. Melanie Fiona and Common

   Hello all! Hope everyone is having a great week so far. As I stated in my post yesterday, I have a few things I want to say in response to the Wall Street Journal Article on YA. In case you haven't read the article or you want reference it, it's called "Darkness to Visible?" by Meghan Cox Gurden. The quotations I use in this post were also taken from the same article.

   First, let me state for those of you that may not know me or those who don't regularly read my blog, I'm not a YA writer. However, I LOVE the genre. I enjoy reading YA novels and I enjoy connecting with writers who write and read it. Second, let me say that I don't believe in censorship.

   Now, the article in the Wall Street Journal stated that young adult literature is too "dark." Here's a quote from the opening of the article:

"If books show us the world, teen fiction can be like a hall of fun-house mirrors, constantly reflecting back hideously distorted portrayals of what life is. There are of course exceptions, but a careless young reader—or one who seeks out depravity—will find himself surrounded by images not of joy or beauty but of damage, brutality and losses of the most horrendous kinds."

   According to Ms. Gurden, YA books reflect "hideously distorted portrayals of what life is." There are children and teens in the world facing and enduring some of these dark YA themes. To call it a "distorted portrayal of life" is not accurate. Her claim is instantly negated by the simple fact that it is happening. For her (or anyone else) to deny that truth is ridiculous.

   My mother monitored what I read until about the age of fifteen. I'm sure most of you are familiar with Sweet Valley High by Francine Pascal. While I was in middle school, my cousin was reading the Sweet Valley High Series. I was not allowed to read the High School Series because I was still in middle school. My mother told me that I was only allowed to read the Sweet Valley Twins Series (the twins were in sixth grade) and Sweet Valley Junior High Series (here they're in seventh grade)  until I got to high school. Same thing in elementary school, I was only allowed to read Sweet Valley Kids. Essentially, I advanced in the series as I advanced in age.

   Somewhere around fifteen years of age my mother stopped telling me what to read. There were a couple reasons for this. One I think, was because she trusted me by that point. I had made the honor roll every grading period, and I never got into any trouble. Two, I was one year younger than everyone in my class (I started kindergarten at four) and I began taking AP classes. In these classes we often read books that definitely had adult themes. Some of them were classics and some of them were not. In high school I read the novella A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess and the novel, The Orchid Thief  by Susan Orlean. If you've never heard of either, look them up. (You might better recognize The Orchid Thief by its film counterpart, Adaptation.) The novels were filled with very adult content and there I was reading them at sixteen. Did that make me into a reckless teen once I started reading whatever I wanted? Absolutely not.

   It seems that parents are concerned that kids are going to start behaving like the characters in the novel. If parents do their jobs, then why would you need to worry about something like that? If you raised decent children, then shouldn't they have the ability to differentiate between what's right and what's wrong? AND NEWS FLASH: they aren't going to get any ideas from reading YA novels. Chances are they've already heard about or have already come into contact with the "dark" issues in YA novels. Gurden calls the material in YA novels, "ugliness." Well, like it or not, it's an ugly world.

   Also, how many YA books has Ms. Gurden read? People who don't read YA would probably be surprised at how much these books resonate emotionally with readers. They are just as good as adult fiction. I'm tired of people cutting down the genre and the talented authors who write it.

   I fully believe that parents should have the right to restrict what their children read. If you don't want your child reading "dark" material, then by all means, monitor their reading. My boss asks me for suggestions of YA books that are "clean" for her daughters. She monitors their reading habits, and she should. They're still pretty young. Still, parents shouldn't bash authors who write YA and definitely shouldn't embark on any book banning campaigns. Some people need these books. These books save people, including teens, as the Twitter hash tag "YAsaves" revealed. Is it really such a bad thing to have them on the shelves? If you don't like it, then it's simple, Don't read it. No one is forcing you. I think it's very sad that people are not acknowledging what's really going on in the world. Wake Up.

What about you? How do you feel about YA? Is it too dark? And do you think it's such a bad thing that dark literature for teens exists?


  1. Teens gravitate toward dark themes - it's part of the maturing process of adolescents. When I was a teen (quite some time ago), I read adult books (if I could get my hands on them) because most YA was frankly tame and below my reading level. Many of our reading lists contained books such as A Clockwork orange, Lord of the Flies, Night - all with dark themes. Parents would be far better off to stop trying to hide their heads (and books) in the sand and use these books instead to open discussion on the subject matter. That's when parents have the most influence - during dialogue, when they can give their own views, opinions, and life lessons in context.

  2. Wow, this is probably one of my fave posts that you've written. :) It's so weird because my craft and form paper mentions some of these topics. I agree with you--I think more responsibility needs to fall on parents. If you don't want your child to read a book, watch a movie, or listen to a song, then monitor them people! Yes, it takes a village to raise a child--but the moral foundation needs to begin in the household.

  3. Great post :) My whole angle on this is exactly what you said your mom did--moderate and pay attention to what your kids are reading. If you are a parent who does not want your child exposed to some themes in YA then make sure you don't allow them to read it until you are sure they are mature enough. Annnnd, I think that what they learn in middle school and high school is a lot worse than what they read in YA books :)

  4. Great post. I agree with you completely, these books cover issues that are already out there. Teens are aware of these things.

  5. YA, has not changed much since we were kids, in fact I think it was darker back when I was 13 than it is now. I read a lot of it and it's seems so innocent to me. ANd your right teens are aware of the issues described in most books.

  6. Great post!

    My mom never monitored what I read. (Watched was a different story.) She trusted that I'd make good book choices and if it was something I was uncomfortable with, I'd stop. This is something I still do. I have problems with censorship anyway--I find it ridiculous--but if a book is the only way to get through to someone going through a hard time, why block that avenue for them?

  7. I completely agree with you. Great post! I think parents have the right to decide what their teens read, but I also think teens can handle any dark theme they come across in YA. Honestly, the world itself is dark - just watch the news!