Imagine you pick up a book. It's dark, full of war and poverty and rioting. Full of people who lose their homes or people who can't find a job. People are murdered or raped. People also overcome these thing. They find the strength to push against what has happened to them and regain their footing in this dark world.
That book is not fiction. It's the tumultuous world we currently live in. Our world right now is awash in wars, in suffering and sickness, it revolutions that take over entire countries and personal struggles like rape that take over an entire life.
The Wall Street Journal thinks this is a bad thing. They published an article last night called "Darkness Too Visible" about how violent and dark YA fiction has become. It reads as if they don't believe fiction should mirror our real lives. In an insulting and absolutely sickeningly ignorant article, they have called out young adult fiction as somehow "evil." It's too dark, the writer claims. God forbid we show our children the truth of the world. Let us continue to lie to them. Instead of provoking discussion about these dark things, let us instead silence them.
In a series of strawman arguments, the writer demonstrates a complete lack of understand about young adult fiction as well as actual young adults. Teenagers are much smarter than we given them credit for. The writer seems to have no idea what actual YA fiction is beyond an anecdote and some pearl-clutching. The writer is living in a fantasy land if they think dark teen fiction is anything new. Who among us read Go Ask Alice as children? Who didn't cry over The Diary of Anne Frank? This is nothing new.
|Maureen Johnson, patron saint of YA|
Darkness is not the only things YA offers. Without darkness, there can not be hope. In this crazy world we live in right now, we need to see these dark things so we can learn from them and become stronger. Teens are humans and they suffer just as many complicated problems as adults do. We should not try to force feed them idyllic cheerful lies about the world. The article asks "contemporary fiction for teens is rife with explicit abuse, violence and depravity. Why is this considered a good idea?" It's considered a good idea because life itself is also rife with these things. We can not pretend they do not exist.
Books like The Hunger Games and Harry Potter show people overcoming incredible adversity. Heartbreaking books like Thirteen Reasons Why or Speak deal with issues of rape and suicide that teens may not feel comfortable about discussing with adults. Books give us hope. Books say to us that "yes, you too will one day be okay." They tell us it's okay to be frightened and they also tell us we can be brave.
It is utterly irresponsible of the Wall Street Journal to have even given sever space to such a thoughtless and insulting article. Young adult fiction still struggles with trying to be taken seriously (and it is VERY serious) and this only demeans it further. Even more puzzling is the idea that their "acceptable" choices for YA novels was split by gender. Girls and boys can read the same books and learn from them just as well, though this is apparently something the Wall Street Journal also does not believe. Dividing the books by gender is just another wrongheaded move in a series of wrongheaded moves and adds to how dated and alarmist the article sounds.
If you believe in the importance of YA fiction and its power, use the #YAsaves hashtag on Twitter and make sure you add @wsj. Tell them Maureen Johnson sent you. Tell them YA novels are just as important as any other fiction and that they give us hope.
I am proud to read YA novels.