Its been pretty hard not to notice, but the YA part of the Blogosphere has been pretty annoyed at this post on Wall Street Journal, which condemns YA fiction for being too dark.
After seeing everyone angry, I'm going to add my own two pence worth, even though I'm fairly sure that what I'm saying is repeating what others have said. Anyway, here's my opinion. Please add yours at the end, and click to read on...
I don't have any brave stories to tell you about how reading saved my life and or got me through a hard time. Never have I felt suicidal and read a book which stopped me. Never once have I been abused by anyone, and never once have I been bullied really badly I've not wanted to go to school. And for that reason, I know that I am very lucky. Because there are many people out there who have.
There are two ways you can take the complaint 'dark'.
One is the fantastically dark, the dark with the demons, werewolves, vampires and all sorts of supernatural things. About half the YA fiction out there features blood on the cover, or some other references to vampires or similar. This I personally believe is fine, its all stories. And while its nice to think there are some amazing creatures out there, for now at least I'm saying they're not real.
Its the darkness in contemporary fiction the author of the article is mainly talking about. Rape, abuse, self harm, eating disorders, most issues in society are covered in at least one book on the market for teens. So are these topics too dark for teens?
One thing saying no is that these things happen. While they're taboo subjects in society, they happen. No matter how much you may want to disbelieve it, horrible things happen out there. Young adult fiction takes these issues in the face without skirting around them. It presents these things in a safe way, safer than the reader actually experiencing it, and normally in such a thought provoking way that it will make a young reader want to talk about it.
For those suffering from these various issues, it can be a comfort to know that they're not the only ones suffering-that not only is a character feeling it, there is also other readers out there going through similar things.
For those who aren't it makes us think more about issues other people are dealing with, and makes us appreciate our lives a little more.
On the other hand, you can see where its coming from. Some things people get really really touchy about, would they really want young people reading about it? There have been many complaints (in England, anyway) about TV making children grow up too fast-isn't the reading material simply adding to it?
I say no. Books that present these issues always do so in extremely mature ways. Take for example, Malorie Blackman, who's talked about things such as racism, teenage pregnancy and homophobia. She brings these up maturely, in an easy to understand way.
At the end of the day, it's up to the parents and reader to decide what's suitable and what's not. They tend to have the best judgement about what's acceptable for each age group. My final opinion is: Books reflect reality and its a harsh reality out there. These books are simply preparing teenagers for the real world.