I tried to read this Wall Street Journal article about YA lit being too dark, and couldn’t bring myself to do it. I skimmed it, got the gist: Why all the dark drama? Why did everything get so explicit?
It’s an explicit world, my friend. To pretend otherwise is not healthy. (I realize I’m naive in many ways, but yeah. I know crap goes on. I keep myself informed by reading materials that are objectionable so I can be aware of why things are objectionable. )
I already made a comment about book choices during/around Banned Book Week. The bottom line in my editorial was that I need to be aware of what I’m exposing to kids, but just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean I have the right to take it away. Some kids need certain messages, some kids need to know they aren’t alone.
I haven’t reviewed any of Laurie Halse Anderson’s novels. I’ve read Speak which is amazing, but not one you can blog about lightly. She has written many amazing books, and her response to this article is fantastic.
I’ll share two passages that may interest you, one from the WSJ article, the other from Anderson:
WSJ: So it may be that the book industry’s ever-more-appalling offerings for adolescent readers spring from a desperate desire to keep books relevant for the young. Still, everyone does not share the same objectives. The book business exists to sell books; parents exist to rear children, and oughtn’t be daunted by cries of censorship. No family is obliged to acquiesce when publishers use the vehicle of fundamental free-expression principles to try to bulldoze coarseness or misery into their children’s lives.
Anderson: They read books in search of information; either about things they’ve experienced (Am I alone? How do I get help? Is this normal?) or about things that make them curious. I have gotten SO MANY letters and emails from readers who say things like “I never understood why my mom doesn’t want me to go to those parties, but after reading SPEAK, I do. Thanks.” Or “I’ve kind of been thinking that it would be awesome to develop anorexia, but after reading WINTERGIRLS, I know how awful it is.”
(Note to Meghan Cox Gurdon: you read that right. Teens read YA books and take away positive, moral guidance. In order to show kids why certain behaviors are dangerous, you actually have to discuss the behaviors. Scary, I know. It’s tough being a parent. But it’s tougher being a kid who has clueless parents.)
Bookworm’s Final Comments: There are PLENTY of books worth picking up without anything objectionable. (I recently read The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and LOVED it. It was smart, wasn’t fluff ball, etc.) There are also plenty of books that make your hair stand up but are worth reading just so you aren’t a Pollyanna in a world where scary crap happens. Do your homework so you aren’t completely shell-shocked when you read about something outside of your comfort zone. But read out of your comfort zone. It will make you a well-rounded and thoughtful person, and heaven knows we need more of those.