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Monthly Archives: June 2011

Recently an article was published railing against the darkness and depravity popular in YA fiction today.  I read this article.  Then I read a response article posted by a friend.  And I thought I’d write a little about those articles to sort out my thoughts(thesis statement? I don’t need no stinkin’ thesis statement!)

As a kid, I remember there were books my mom told me not read.  As a kid, I was fine with this.   But as I got older, I began to wonder: what’s in these forbidden books? By the time I was 12, I’d found one at the school library and sneaked it home.  No one recommended it to me or anything, I just knew it was one of the forbidden authors and I wanted to know.  When my mom caught me with it, it gave us an opportunity, however awkward, to discuss the “adult themes.”  In my memory, both the book and the talk with my mom were a way for me to grow.

Enter people who want to say what’s okay for you to read, and what’s not.  Honestly, if something is really too “adult” for a kid to read, they’ll probably STOP READING IT.  It may take a lot of guts to walk out of a movie in front of other people, or turn down the cigarette your friend hands you, but if a book is making you uncomfortable, no one will notice if you put it down, if indeed there is anyone there to notice in the first place.  But if you pull that same book out of someone’s hand, and label it unclean?  That’s when something becomes truly fascinating.

The darkness article may have actually backfired.  In my work at the library, I noticed that Sherman Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian now has a reserve list, whereas before this, it did not.  And obviously, being the person I am, I’m interested now too.

You can’t say that exposure to something necessarily leads to a desire to do that thing.  I grew up playing first person shooter games on the computer, and I refuse to own a gun.  I grew up reading books about dragons and magic, and while I still like that kind of book, I have somehow managed to avoid becoming a dragon or a magic-user.  And I know a lot of other people who haven’t become the things they’ve read about either.

I’m an adult(arguably) and I read a lot of YA books.  I also read children’s books and adult books.  I like books.  A good story is a good story, and teens can see that too.  Rainbows and happy endings just don’t make sense in today’s books unless a there is price to be paid.  And that’s if a happy ending makes sense at all.  Teens know this as surely as adults, and once they are old enough to know this, they can’t unknow it.  Some of them reach this age sooner than others, some later, but they will get there in spite or even because of their parents‘ efforts.  I’m not arguing against parental involvement, mind you, I’m all for it.  Parents should keep track of what their children are up to, like my mom did(not that I appreciated it then).  If you don’t think that what your kid is reading is appropriate, then take it away and see how far that gets you.  It’ll work just fine until it doesn’t, and then there is nothing, absolutely nothing, you can do about it.  Children grow up, and they eventually find ways to do what they want to do.  Talking about “adult issues” rather than taking them away might work out better for everyone.

What I am sure of is that I agree more with the second article.  I feel bad for that mother who couldn’t find a book for her daughter, but she couldn’t have been looking very hard.  Most bookstore staff(or teachers or librarians) love to recommend books, and with all the diversity out there(and there IS diversity) surely someone could have helped this woman.  She doesn’t have to like dark books,  and neither does her daughter.  But a lot of people do like dark books, and simply reading about darkness and knowing that it is out there is not a bad thing.