In which I am about to grab a pedestal and street preach, ya'll.
The Wall Street Journal recently posted up this post here entitled Darkness Too Visible in which it talks about how there are *gasp* dark plot lines in many YAs out there now. For those of you who scare easily, please sit down in your seats with some smelling salts so that you don't faint.
The Wall Street Journal might as well have entitled the article A Real Too Real. Okay, so they're aren't exactly sparkling vampires or boys who turn into werewolves out there but every YA book is working to address some real underlying issue. I've said it before and I'll say it again:
Yes, there is rape/cussing/sex/drugs/drinking/homosexuality/bullying/gossip/cutting/etc in YA fiction. Why? Because there is rape/cussing/sex/drugs/drinking/homosexuality/bullying/gossip/cutting/etc in real life. Just because it isn't something nice to talk about, just because it is dark, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Let me make this crystal clear, just because you turn away from that animal dying slowly on the street doesn't mean it just disappears. This is the same with those issues. Just because we don't like that some kids are using cutting as an outlet for their emotions doesn't make the fact that they are doing it any less. In fact, speaking from experience, the WORST thing that you could do to me as a teen was tell me I was the only one doing it. At the core of my teenage existence was fitting in with a group of like-minded individuals.
THAT is what putting characters like Lia from Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls who is anorexic and Alice from Elizabeth Scott's Living Dead Girl who was abducted by a sicko at 10 and Clara from Deb Caletti's Stay who suffered from an abusive boyfriend and Valarie from Jennifer Brown's Hate List who helped her boyfriend craft a hit list and also stopped him from killing one of the girls on it and Katniss from Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games Series who faced down a corrupt government and Nina from from Julia Karr's XVI who survived being objectified by men at the age of 16 because society says it's alright.
These extraordinary ladies and hundreds more just like them shine a light on these problems and help the readers find their way out of the darkness with their strength and will power and the truthfulness of their stories. They allow teens and tweens and college kids and adults and everyone in between identify with them and realize they are not alone. And just having someone that understands, that found their way out of it can be enough.
Are there things in YA fiction that might not be appropriate for everyone? Maybe, but that's up for the parent to decide. Are there issues like rape/cussing/sex/drugs/drinking/homosexuality/bullying/gossip/cutting/etc? Absolutely, because they exist. If parents would spend less time trying to brush the nastiness of life under the rug and more time reading and discussing with their children, there wouldn't BE this problem. And I know there are plenty of parents out there that do this. For those of you that are actively living like that everyday, I commend you. That is the youth I want growing up to inherit this world. Because I promise you, all of these things are happening around the world today in our middle schools. Definitely not to every child, but to most and the difference between them is that those who have read about it and talked it over will be prepared for the right kind of response.
Reality is just that, it's real. Fiction strives for truth. The truth can only come out of the real, the flesh, the experiences and if it doesn't, then it's not the kind of stuff we should be reading.
Every time I pick up a YA book, I fall in love all over again.
And that my friends, is why YA saves.