If you haven't read the Wall Street Journal's recent article about young adult literature, please take a moment to do so.
The YA community is up in arms about this travesty of an opinion, and rightly so. Thankfully, we have some of the best role models in Maureen Johnson when it comes to organizing ourselves. Johnson and Libba Bray called for their readership to tell them how #yasaves. I urge you to take a moment and see the amazing stories that were shared.
For many teens out there, YA books are a way to explore their world without facing the consequences themselves. And the notion that because a teen reads a book about self-mutilation will make them want to do the same to her own body is ridiculous. It's the old debate about violence on television and video games. The act of watching will not cause violence if the teen has a family open to discussing the complicated issues of life.
When I was at an age considered young adult by the publishing world, I was more interested in reading adult mysteries than anything that was written for my peers. As I grew older and read more and more of those mysteries, I began to notice just how gruesome they became. They contained the subject material Gurdon accuses YA lit to contain, but in greater concentrations. As I branched out to regular fiction, I discovered those were even worse! The authors wrote overly-descriptive violence, rape, incest, child molesting, and extremely harsh language, and most of these were just gratuitous. If this is the case Gurdon is trying to make, then adult lit is setting a poor example.
Take, for example, the best selling The Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larrson (which were extremely well written, I might add). If you factor in all of the horrific scenes in those books, you can't even compare to the violence and sexual situations found in YA. Those situations are never there just for the hell of it. Young Adult authors are very aware of their target readership and are including the material to help their readers prepare for whatever the world throws at them. It's a double standard: what makes it acceptable for adults to read such highly charged violent material, but not for a teen to read about a girl and a vampire who are deeply in love?
I turned to young adult books way past the age that I was "supposed" to. YA became my savior when the atmosphere of the adult lit world began to overwhelm me with it's wonton abuse of violence and language. Now I take comfort in those books, look forward to immersing myself in a world that is familiar.
I hope that no matter what your views are about current young adult literature, you can accept that teens and their parents will make up their own minds about what is acceptable for their families. Anything else is just censorship, and as we've discovered by reading the vast amounts of dystopia novels available for teens, censorship never works out in the end.
Many authors and my fellow bloggers have written responses to the article, too, and they are worth reading:
Laurie Halse Anderson