Monday, June 6, 2011

Darkness in YA

Like a lot of people, I was greatly surprised and hurt by this Wall Street Journal article about how there is too much darkness in Young Adult literature.

A lot of my feelings have been expressed by people that are much more influential than I am, which is good. These are the movers and the shakers, the experts in the YA field. Best sellers and people who are already published. But, I still feel like I have something I want to say.

All books – not just young adult literature – mimic the world we live in. And it's sad to say, there is a lot of darkness in the world today. We're living in a war that we've become desensitized to. Politics has become a he-said, she-said battle that relies on embarrassing or accusing an opponent. Crime is something with which we live.

And this is for all people. Kids themselves are forced into dealing with divorce, abuse, drugs, peer pressure, alcohol, sex. All of these things I went through when I was in high school. These are all things that are deemed "dark."

Art mimics life. I wish that it weren't true. I wish we could go back to a time when children were sheltered and everyone wasn't instantly suspicious of everyone else. That ideal 50s-era perfect family living in the suburbs is gone. It's not coming back.

I don't think YA – or any art form, for that matter – should be censored and called "too dark." Young adults can connect to these characters, who sometimes go through darker and more dangerous stuff than they do. I'm not naive enough to consider that some won't try to mimic the actions of books, that they think because a character made it through okay, they can too.

But, I think that we should give most kids credit that they'll learn from the books they read. I certainly did when I was in their place. In fact – I still do. And it doesn't matter the age group I'm reading. We can't continue to believe that our children are protected from these things. And I think we're harming them if we do. We need to give them tools to understand the world around them and help them deal with the hard decisions they are going to face. We can help them, or we can harm them.

Well, that's essentially my thoughts. What are yours? Do you think there is too much darkness in YA? Let me know in the comments.