Look at me! In The Loop! Too bad it is a loop that is making me grumpy.
You will notice that I have been reading a lot of ‘dark’ YA lately….so this seemed an appropriate item to bring up. Children Literature Peeps can’t stop talking about Meghan Cox Gurdon’s most recent article in the Wall Street Journal. Twitter heads everywhere are tweettweeting under that hashtag YASaves with torrents of disagreement. And if you have even read a smattering of this blog you would know who’s side I am on.
To begin, her article starts in the wrong place. It starts with an adult looking for a book for an adolescent. An adult claiming what is acceptable. An adult claiming more knowledge and exhibiting power over a youth that is experiencing a completely different world than they experienced.
The adult has always been the Gatekeeper of what is acceptable for a child to read and what is not. They write the books, they run the publishing houses, they buy the books. As the easy access to knowledge is growing, a broader, more honest, less protective, picture of the world is available to youths….oh YES and to all of these kids who actually are experiencing the horrific realities that exist.. and authors are providing the same scope in their writing. It makes sense. Particularly, when we are talking about realistic fiction, here. The ‘dark’ YA literature that Gurdon references are creating backdrops that mirror the world they see unfolding before them.
Many of the book topics Gurdon argues against are concepts that youth have had to battle through on their own for generations; physical abuse, intense depression, eating disorders, murder, rape, etc. These are not new experiences. She claims that ‘back in the day’ books covering these topics were milder, more acceptable, and less graphic/detailed. Again, As youth grow to have a stronger concept of the real world they demand books that reflect that world.
Think about it. When you watch a sappy lovey dovey movie where everything turns out perfect and everyone says the right thing what do you think? This is not real life! Well…its the same for an adolescent who is struggling with anorexia reading over and over again about characters who go to clinics and are ‘fixed’ for life. It’s just real. Instead, tough reads like Wintergirls that take an intensely honest portrayal of what some girls experience brings something relatable to the table. At the same time it also overtly notes the problems with eating disorders and offers possible solutions.
So really there are a lot more things to be said but the average blog reader will not sit still for more than four paragraphs so a quick summary: Adults = Gatekeepers of the YA world which seems pretty ridiculous since they don’t know shiitake about being 13 in 2011. The Internet = a realistic portrayal of the world available to all youth, not just the ones experiences ‘dark’ issues, 24/7.
The Book I Wish Had been Published in My Youth: The Uglies Trilogy by Scott Westerfield