Jun 8, 2011

Leave YA Alone!

Last week, an article called "Darkness Too Visible" was posted on the WSJ website that criticized the state of current young adult literature.  In essence, the author was saying that the current selection is harmful for teen readers and they need to read things of more substance and less controversy.  Okay, I won’t deny that some of the current YA books aren’t great literature (said in hoity-toity accent like a professor of mine used to), but neither are the large amounts of romance and mystery novels that are available.  For the most part, YA literature is amazing and helpful to a lot of teens. 

In response to the article, YA authors like Laurie Halse Anderson started a twitter hashtag, #yasaves, to get people to tweet about how the YA books the article criticizes made an impact on their lives.  This makes me happy because the amount of responses were amazing.  Go look, it's fun! 

My response to the article is of course to rant about it, which I’ve already verbally done to a lot of friends (sorry guys).  So here goes:

-The article begins with a woman “disheartened” by the YA selection in a store who had to leave without buying anything.  Okay, I’m sure she did and that's sad.  Just because there were some book covers and, if she actually read the summaries, books that weren’t appealing, it doesn’t mean that there weren’t others to select from.  No one will like every book and that's fine.  But just because some YA books aren't up to your standards doesn't give you the right to generalize every other book in that section.  You're in a book store for crying out loud, there are other things available.  All of the books that are praised in the article are also kept in the YA section, so there’s no need to feel disheartened.  Just look through the books to find one.  It’s not that hard. 

-The author mentions Go Ask Alice as one of the first YA books to mention dark topics.  I have a slight suspicion that she doesn't know this isn't a real diary, but was actually written by a psychologist as a tool to keep kids off of drugs...but maybe it's just me.

-She seems very anti-Cormier.  Yeah, his stuff doesn’t include happy endings.  NEITHER DOES LIFE.  The ending to Charlotte’s Web isn’t happy either.  Charlotte freaking dies.  The message of the story could very well be “have babies and die.”  Should we take that out so the youngins aren’t exposed to death? 

-She's afraid that talking about the horrible problems teens and other people experience will help to normalize them.  Well not only is not talking about them censorship, but it's also ignoring the fact that the problems do exist.  The books aren't telling kids to go out and cut themselves.  They're giving teens an opportunity to see their frustrations voiced. 

-She says the Hunger Games are"hyper-violent." Umm, no?  Yeah it involves kids fighting to the death, but there are no drawn out death scenes and nothing is too graphic.  The book is all political commentary.  It’s amazing.  It has a strong FEMALE main character who kicks ass.  Does she not want girls to be strong? 

-She's rather fond of the non-"grotesque" Judy Blume whose works apparently pale in comparison to what's available today (although her stuff is still heavily challenged).  Yes, YA Literature has changed.  But so has everything else.  Women can vote now (gasp!), we can all drink from the same bubblers (water fountains for you non-Boston freaks), and we have a black president.  The world back then didn’t have the same problems teens have now.  The internet didn’t exist, cyber-bullying was unheard of, and most approved teenage issues were whether or not saddle shoes were an appropriate footwear choice for the big school dance.  Teens face a lot more problems now and the literature reflects it.  It gives them a way to see that they aren’t the only ones experiencing these problems and offers solutions to help them.  So instead of fighting their ability to read these works, why not put that energy into encouraging them to read and work out their problems?

-There’s a sidebar included with a list of appropriate reading selections.  Possibly the best part of the article, one of the suggested books is Fahrenheit 451.  An article that is basically calling for the censorship of YA material in order to shield the eyes of today's youth, recommends a book with the main message of anti-censorship. 

What was with people last weekend?  This article AND the whole Paul Revere warning the British business?  This world scares me.

Another librarian-in-training, Tahleen, gives a much better, concise response to the article here


  1. I thought the SAME thing when I saw Fahrenheit 451 on that sidebar.

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