The Wall Street Journal published this article about how books written for teenagers are too dark and are going to lead them all into depravity.
I think this is ridiculous (and not in a good way). Yes, there are dark YA books out there. But these books aren’t dark for the sake of being dark. These books tackle serious issues in ways that are accessible to teenagers. Teenagers need these books, because often this is the only way they can deal with these issues because the adults who should be there for them are too busy burying their heads in the sand, pretending that teens are completely ignorant about the world around them. (Newsflash: they’re not. They’re way smarter than they get credit for.)
You know why the sorts of books this author complains about exist? Because they exist in our society. If things like rape, abuse, self-harm, eating disorders, etc. didn’t exist in our society – if teenagers didn’t have to deal with them – there would be no reason to have to write these books.
I might someday be a language arts teacher. I think about the things I had to read in school – how many of these things can students really relate to? I mean, yes. There is something to be said for having them read the classics and broaden their horizons and whatever (and I love them, don’t get me wrong), but at the end of the day, is a story about twenty-somethings trying to find rich husbands, or an exploration of the depravities of Victorian society, or a crazy king with conniving daughters, or anything part of the literary canon of dead white guys, really going to grab their attention? Or is it going to be books like Looking for Alaska, or Speak, or The Hunger Games – books that are real, books they can relate to, books about kids who could just as easily be them? If I can get away with it, I would definitely pull these books in. I don’t think forcing kids to read books they don’t want to read, anyway, is very effective; it just kills any love of reading they might have had. Kids need these books, because it might be the only thing that will get them to read.
Personally, the characters in these books were the only friends I had whenever I was the “new kid.” I’m really glad these books exist. If it wasn’t for them, there are so many lunchtimes I probably would have spent sitting alone. And when I did make friends, often it was these books we bonded over – Tamora Pierce and Meg Cabot both come to mind.
So, if people are going to continue to insist on attacking and belittling these books, I’m going to continue to politely rage at these people.