I'm going to go ahead and warn you, this is about to get ranty. If you don't want to read my rants, then you don't have to.
If you've been on twitter recently, you've most likely seen the YA Saves hastags or something about Wall Street Journal. If you haven't, well, you're probably not going to be happy after you read this. So, let's get started shall we?
Darkness Too VisibleWSJ: "Amy Freeman, a 46-year-old mother of three, stood recently in the young-adult section of her local Barnes & Noble, in Bethesda, Md., feeling thwarted and disheartened.
Contemporary fiction for teens is rife with explicit abuse, violence and depravity. Why is this considered a good idea?
She had popped into the bookstore to pick up a welcome-home gift for her 13-year-old, who had been away. Hundreds of lurid and dramatic covers stood on the racks before her, and there was, she felt, "nothing, not a thing, that I could imagine giving my daughter. It was all vampires and suicide and self-mutilation, this dark, dark stuff." She left the store empty-handed."
Me: First of all, I'd just like to state that I am fourteen. I read YA. My parents allow me to read YA. In fact, they encourage it.
You know why that is?
Because, not only does it help me get a grip on real life issues, I enjoy it. And there are a lot of things I could be out there doing instead of reading. Even if I'm reading about these things - drugs, self-mutilation, suicide, rape, and so on - at least I'm not actually doing these things. I'm learning lessons through other people about why I shouldn't do them in the first place.
And the covers. This literally makes me sigh. I'm not entirely sure what bookstore you went to or what books you were looking at, but I can tell you that nearly all of the YA genre has a girl on the dress on the cover. What did you find dark about the cover? Oh, maybe the fabric was dark.
Besides, what ever happened to "Don't judge a book by it's cover?" I know we all do that. It's almost always what draws us to a book. But to look at a book with the color black on it and immediately think, "Oh no. That can't be suitable." I'm sorry, but that's just idiotic.
Not to mention, the YA covers are a huge improvement from what you'd find a couple of rows over in the Adult Section. The covers that line the shelves there make me blush at just a glimpse! Your genre has half-naked men on the cover and you're going to complain about some black and some dresses? At least our books don't have "Smutty" stamped on the cover!
And even so, if this woman didn't like what was in the YA section, then she should've got a Middle Grade book. They're written for kids still in middle school, hence the title, and are much more comical and bright.
WSJ: "How dark is contemporary fiction for teens? Darker than when you were a child, my dear: So dark that kidnapping and pederasty and incest and brutal beatings are now just part of the run of things in novels directed, broadly speaking, at children from the ages of 12 to 18."
Me: You do realize that things have changed, right? Books have changed, adapted, evolved. And that's because so has the world.
In the past, things were more conservative. Things have changed. People are shot and raped and kidnapped everyday. Girls are pregnant at much younger ages. People spew hatred and greed and opinions and beliefs that others may not share.
When people change, so must books. All art changes with the times. Music, paintings, movies, TV, and so on. It's all changed as people have.
My point here is, this stuff happens. A lot. And it's important to know about.
WSJ: "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."
Me: So you assume that rape doesn't happen? That teenage sex doesn't happen? That people aren't doing drugs? That teens are committing suicide or self-harming?
I call BS.
Surely you've heard of it. After all, YA didn't just make that stuff up.
And don't even start to tell me about beauty. You obviously have not read more than a select few YA books and you're too stuck in your own ways to even consider the beauty that they hold. You have no idea how beautiful and life-changing a book can be.
WSJ: "Mirroring the tumultuous times, dark topics began surging on to children's bookshelves. A purported diary published anonymously in 1971, "Go Ask Alice," recounts a girl's spiral into drug addiction, rape, prostitution and a fatal overdose. A generation watched Linda Blair playing the lead in the 1975 made-for-TV movie "Sarah T: Portrait of a Teenage Alcoholic" and went straight for Robin S. Wagner's original book. The writer Robert Cormier is generally credited with having introduced utter hopelessness to teen narratives. His 1977 novel, "I Am the Cheese," relates the delirium of a traumatized youth who witnessed his parents' murder, and it does not (to say the least) have a happy ending."
Me: Once again, these things happen! And not all stories need a happy ending. Life doesn't always have a happy ending. If it did, suicide wouldn't even happen. And suicide does happen.
WSJ: "The argument in favor of such novels is that they validate the teen experience, giving voice to tortured adolescents who would otherwise be voiceless. If a teen has been abused, the logic follows, reading about another teen in the same straits will be comforting. If a girl cuts her flesh with a razor to relieve surging feelings of self-loathing, she will find succor in reading about another girl who cuts, mops up the blood with towels and eventually learns to manage her emotional turbulence without a knife.
Yet it is also possible—indeed, likely—that books focusing on pathologies help normalize them and, in the case of self-harm, may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might otherwise never have imagined such extreme measures. Self-destructive adolescent behaviors are observably infectious and have periods of vogue. That is not to discount the real suffering that some young people endure; it is an argument for taking care."
Me: I'm sorry. I'm just going to say it. That statement makes me sick. This entire article makes me sick! And, quite frankly, I very much want to meet the person who wrote it so I can tell her exactly where she can shove her opinion.
I don't know a single person who would read a book about self-mutilation and think it was cool. I can't think of a soul who read a book about suicide and decided to do it because of the story they read. I can't think of one person who read about abuse or rape or prostitution and decided that it was what they wanted to do with their life.
And you're full of crap if you say that you could.
TV popularizes cutting and sex. They never show many consequences in them, anyways. But with books, they're all about the problems and the consequences. You're inside of the main character's head, reading all of their thought, seeing every last one of their feelings and fears. You begin to think about yourself as that person. You begin to think about how scared you would be, how upset and nervous and frightened.
But, I swear, if I ever hear someone in public talking about how books led them to cut or have sex or do drugs, I will personally hit them in the face. I will, too. Because that's bull.
You know, this article states several times that we are going to be led to do thing because we read about them in a book. I would just like to state this:
I am not a sheep. I cannot be herded into a pin and made to do something because I am told. I will not look around and see others doing something and decide that it would be okay to do.
I have a mind. I am not stupid. I can think for myself and form coherent thoughts.