Saturday, June 11, 2011

Is Young Adult fiction too dark?

This article was recently brought to my attention by someone on The author of the article says that YA fiction of today is too dark and troublesome for our teens. Here's an example.

Mrs. Megan Cox Gurdon states in her article:
If books show us the world, teen fiction can be like a hall of fun-house mirrors, constantly reflecting back hideously distorted portrayals of what life is. There are of course exceptions, but a careless young reader—or one who seeks out depravity—will find himself surrounded by images not of joy or beauty but of damage, brutality and losses of the most horrendous kinds.

The question I impose is, if YA fiction is too dark, then isn't everything else? If our teenagers shouldn't be reading books with dark themes to it, then they should not be doing anything else and they should shut themselves up in their rooms for the rest of their lives. 

Why? Well, look at everything else in today's world. We have girls who are starving themselves to look pretty, we have news reports everyday with reports of death, violence, and things that probably shouldn't be meant for anyone. Dear Mrs. Gurdon, if the teens of this age read only books of butterflies and unicorns then how will they handle reality? This is the real world, and these books talk about what happens in the real world. 

Besides, not every book is full of dark things. There are plenty of books that talk about happy things. But then not everything in our world today is full of happiness. So why should we not read about real life? 

And even if there are dark books, I've talked to many people who think that they are helpful. Why? Well, if a girl who goes through depression or is abused, may not talk about it with anyone. If she goes and reads a book where the MC is going through the same thing and in the end faces her fears, the girl may end up standing up for herself too. Not only that, but it lets people who are going through troubles that they are not alone. There are other people in the world who understand what they're going through. A book of this kind may even give the teen strength to ask for help. 

Mrs. Gurdon also states:
Yet it is also possible—indeed, likely—that books focusing on pathologies help normalize them and, in the case of self-harm, may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might otherwise never have imagined such extreme measures. Self-destructive adolescent behaviors are observably infectious and have periods of vogue. That is not to discount the real suffering that some young people endure; it is an argument for taking care.
May help normalize them? Is that truly what you think? If a teen who has never come across extreme measures in his extremely sheltered life, reads a book where an extreme measure is taken, it may, I don't know, warn him? By warning him, I mean it may help him realize that this behavior is not normal and dangerous. It may even help his awareness of the struggles around him and may inspire him to help others in these type of situations. 

I also say that I find this article insulting. From what you are implying, you are saying that all teenagers are naive and innocent. That they do not know how to react to the world and by reading these type of books they will go and do it themselves. As a teenager myself, I will say in our defense that most of us are not stupid enough to do everything we see in movies or read in books. We can actually use our common sense! Shocking I know, but true!

Besides, there is a reason it is called Young Adult fiction. It is not meant for little children, it is meant for young adults who are old enough to know about these things. And if they cannot handle these subjects, then they should not be reading them in the first place. They should go off and read children's books. 

 Mrs. Gurdon quotes Mr. Sherman Alexie in her article when he says that one cannot find anything more harmful in his books than one would find on the internet. And frankly this is true. Instead of banning books (which in effect will only make teenagers want to read them even more. Come on, we're teenagers! We love defying adults.), it should be the parents job to watch what their child reads. Not a school's, or university, or even a journalist. It's the parents job to watch out for their child, not anyone else's. 

Mrs. Gurdon points out one of the books on the  American Library Association's list of top 10 most challenged books. This book so happens to be Suzanne Collin's "The Hunger Games" (I thought it was a good series. I loved the first book, wasn't crazy about the second one, and hated the last one because of the ending). While this book certainly has violence and other touchy subjects in it, I do not see why teenagers of today should not be reading books like these. Dystopian is a new and growing genre that is quickly building up a following of readers. One of the reasons is because we like reading about other people standing up for what they believe in. 

Finally, before I bore you readers all too much, here is a last quote from Mrs. Gurdon's article:
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.
While no parent should be silent if they see their child reading something they do not approve of, it is also not the publisher's fault. Publishers sell what the people want, and if teens of today want to read books that actually relate to their lives and they are going to publish these books. Not only that but in no way are publishers using freedom of speech to "bulldoze" misery into teenagers lives. They are not forcing us to read anything.We are choosing what we read. If it is anyone's fault that these "too dark" books are out there, then it is only our own faults for having a voice and a choice. 

We are not children, Mrs. Gurdon, we are young adults who choose rightfully so what we want to read, and think, and speak. We are people too with an opinion and morals. If there is something we do not want to read there is no one saying we have too. Let us make our own choices instead of saying what we should read and what we shouldn't. 

And one last thing, I love Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 and I am a girl. Do not be the judge what is right  for girls and boys. 

Resources used for this post:

Another resource that further proves my point:

And if you'd like to read even more posts and articles further defending YA books, just type in YAsaves in a google search box. 
Sorry for the extremely long post today. So, what's your opinion on this?


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