For some amazing articles on the subject click Bites, WORD for Teen, and Steph Su Reads.
Ok, it’s time for some hard truths. I am (almost) 24 and I’ve only been reading YA since university. When I was a teen I was reading V.C. Andrews (and other smutty romances) and Thomas Harris novels. I never picked up a “teen” novel unless it was a Sweet Valley Twins book (I collect them) and I was rarely caught in the teen section at a book store.
Let’s look at that, shall we?
First off, V.C. Andrews is well known for her incest, rape, assault, abuse, bullying, sex galore, and generally horrible situations. My mother was the one who bought me my first V.C. book for Christmas one year (probably not knowing what fully lay inside) and to date I own a lot of her older works – which means that I also read them. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t in grade 9 yet, either, when I was gifted them.
Thomas Harris is famous for creating Hannibal Lector who kills people and eats their brains with fava beans and a nice Chianti. He also wrote about cannibalistic pigs and a villain who used children’s tears to keep his eves moist.
In high school I pretty much only read Katie MacAllister novels about vampires and comedy and sex (along with the V.C. and Thomas Harris). And yet when I graduated high school I was still a virgin. I read about sex all the time in my beloved romances; it didn’t make me go out and spread my legs for anyone who was a smooth talker with a British accent or a nice car. I’ve also never ate a human being... that I know of anyway.
I was in university – one of the top Canadian universities – when I really started to read YA. At first I was taken aback by the wide variety of topics and genres covered, but then I realized how amazing YA was and I’ve never looked back since.
To even think about implying that reading YA novels about eating disorders, cutting, rape, homosexuality, abuse, or any other “dark subject matter” will directly correlate with the reader doing the exact same things is absolutely idiotic. No, it really is the stupidest, most unintelligent thing I have ever heard of. It’s like saying that rap or metal music makes people commit suicide or that taking one hit of marijuana will get you hooked on the harder stuff like crack cocaine. People are going to do what they want to and sometimes they’re going to have things done to them that they can’t control. That is the way of life and having novels like that listed under the YA classification can help.
I’ve read Jackie Morse Kessler’s Rage and Hunger novels; I’m not about to go out and slash at my skin with a razor blade or stop eating. But by reading these novels, which I adored, I also have a wider understanding of the issues and I felt strong emotions for the characters. They are two amazing novel about real-life situations which are written by one amazing author. Anyone can write the ‘la di da’ fluffy books that have no effect on anyone and are instantly forgotten. It takes real guts to write about real life and the situations that (especially) teenagers can face on a daily basis.
The Wall Street Journal and journalist of the article in question, Meghan Cox Gurdon, need to have their heads surgically removed from their apparently flawless assholes. Especially to have a journalist who “writes regularly about children’s books for the Journal” write absolute garbage like this, I’d be questioning her intelligence. I mean, come on, there is so much wrong with the entire article, but the last paragraph in particular:
“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.”
Really? It’s a BAD thing for the book industry to be relevant to their readers? I’m not sure about her, but I wouldn’t be content reading only about the Bobsey Twins and their grand adventures. I want to read about The Hunger Games and Harry Potter. I want to learn about other cultures and about people who have overcome amazing things in their life. I don’t want to be stuck in a literary world where everything is censored and I’m given a completely biased view on things. Life is not always pretty and bright and reading about reality in YA books at least can make a person feel a little better about it.
Besides, where does this bitch get off ranting about how horrible and dark YA is when kids under 10 are watching Jersey Shore, CSI, Law and Order, or 16 and Pregnant? If parents raise a dumb kid who mimics everything they witness, don’t blame what they read and/or see. Blame the parents and their inability to explain life questions and the difference between fact and fiction and right and wrong. And leave YA out of it because it causes a lot more good than harm.
YA has saved lives. How many other categories of books can say the same?