Friday, June 17, 2011
YA Too Dark?
I know I'm a little late to this show, but I've finally sorted out some of my feelings about the Wall Street Journal Article attacking YA Literature for being too dark.
First off, I'm against censorship of all kinds. Open discussion of and access to ideas is the most important freedom we have...and that freedom is important for teens too. Sheltering them is NOT the answer.
That being said, this overall trend toward dark topics does concern me. Not just in YA...It's in all aspects of entertainment, for adults and teens...from video games, to pop music, to the fact you can't seem to hit more than two buttons on your TV remote control without hitting a murder mystery show. Really, the daily fictional murder toll must be close to outdoing the national real-life average.
At some point, we need to ask ourselves, why? Why all this focus on death and violent crimes? (And while we're at it) why must most YA protags have a dead parent, friend, family member or be dying themselves? Is it not a true/important/serious enough story unless death or violence is involved?
For the most part, I agree with Judy Blume who says that if a teen isn't ready to read something or if it disturbs them, they will put it down...but that's not true of all readers. I'm afraid there could be some depressed and suicidal teens out there who might be feeding off the darkness of these books.
On the other hand, there are many troubled teens who are helped by reading about others going through similar dark things. As Laurie Halse Anderson said in response to the article, YA saves lives.
(I found the opinions expressed by Blume and Anderson in this article)
Mostly, teen readers want to be entertained and not talked down to, which is what I think these edgier books accomplish. And these edgier books may also have the added benefit of helping teens see the world from different perspectives and empathize with others going through difficult things.
When it comes right down to it, the adults in teens' lives should be aware of what they are reading and any potential emotional ramifications of their choices. It isn't the book's job...or author's, or publisher's, or even the library's job to do that. Freedom of speech/press is important and should be protected, but it's not w/o risks.
As parents often tell their teens, freedoms come with responsibilities.
What about you? What have you been thinking about all this?