Yesterday The Wall Street Journal posted an article about YA books being too "dark", stating "Contemporary fiction for teens is rife with explicit abuse, violence and depravity. Why is this considered a good idea?" This article (click here to read), has spurned much debate on Twitter as well as the hash tag #YAsaves, where readers off all ages have posted numerous books that have helped them and even, at time, saved their lives. Being a writer myself, I couldn't just let this article be without posting my response to it. I saw it upon waking up this morning at 9am and I am only now able to clear my head to write. It took that long for me to calm down enough to answer their question "Why is this considered a good idea?" Here is my response.
It's books like these that make a difference in the world of teens. Not that I'm saying the other "softer" books don't. To this day, my favorite book is Harriet the Spy which was the book that made me realize I wanted to be a writer and therefore changed my life. However, these other books, these so-called darker books depict a reality that up until now was always kept in the "dark". I'm going to admit something here that only a few people know, I was molested as a child. I won't go into details of what happened, but I will say, had some of these books been around while I was growing up, I may not have felt like that in some part is was my fault. It may not have taken almost all of my 31 years to come to grips with what happened and maybe, even now as I write this, I wouldn't be shaking. I only hope that one day, a book that I write, will have the kind of impact I am seeing on Twitter.
Authors from Judy Blume to Ellen Hopkins to Laurie Halse Anderson have broken the mold and written books that teens need to read. Yes, the topics are serious and yes, the topics are reality. To hide them or band them will cause more harm than good. Do we really want to live in a world where teens are not allowed to express what they feel or what they are going through? Band these books and that's where we're headed. We need these teens to realize they are not alone, that others have been there and that it's ok to go to their parents, teachers, librarians and ask for help without feeling guilty or ashamed about it. In Jackie Morse Kessler's Hunger, when Lisa walks into her parent's bedroom and says "Daddy, I need help." I could almost picture the various teens going to their parents and asking for help just because this one character was strong enough to do so. That is the impact these books make.
So in response to the WSJ question, "Why is this considered a good idea?" My answer "Because it is".
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