Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Response To The Wall Street Journal Post: Real Is Too Real

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.


  1. Beautiful post. I think you articulated the value of the topics in YA books well.

    Andrea @ Reading Lark

  2. Good literature and good art show us the flaws in our society. They make us question what we believe and help us strengthen our convictions. They expand our knowledge base and make light of situations that most people don't like to think or even know about. To say that some topics should be forbidden in any genre is upsetting. I think it all has to do with how to portray the themes and topics. I certainly wouldn't want my 13-year-old reading a book that portrays rape positively. But I don't ever want the person who writes a book like that to have their book censored and their voice squelched because when that happens, we lose our free speech.

    *steps off soapbox* I'll just end there. haha

  3. All of this has made me love and appreciate YA even more (didn't think that was possible!). I don't think writers and readers in any other genre could so succinctly and earnestly defend their genre like the YA community has done today. We are awesome. Thanks for the great response!

  4. I agree. I signed onto twitter a little bit ago and saw all these tweets... found the article and the more I read, the angrier I got. The article mentioned all you did and said that years ago we didn't have YA books to bring these kinds of things to children. What about "The Scarlett Letter", "Madame Bovary", "To Kill a Mockingbird"... all are classics and guess what...they were around years ago.....and still are.

    Anyone who tries to argue that kids/young adults don't need to read any of it are living in a fairyland. I would much rather a child/young adult read about the real world and talk about it an adult they trust to find out the "true" story, than learn it from people who don't know the truth or not be prepared for the real world.

    If people have a problem with their kids reading certain books, read them first, allow the teen/child to read then....get this new concept.... have a conversation about it!

    Now I'm stepping off my soapbox :)

  5. The stupidity of the article is astounding. I'm only 23 but when I was 14 there wasn't the level of YA novels out that there is today, especially in the small town libraries I frequented. So I turned to adult lit because I was sick of the Baby Sitter's Club etc and wanted to read books that represented real life. Many of the adult novels I first ventured into were my mum's crime/mystery novels, which were filled with rape/murder/pedophilia anyway. The main difference would have been that if I'd had the opportunity to read the 'dark' YA they're complaining about I might have had a better understanding about how rough life can be for a teen and perhaps I'd have been better equipped to talk to and help my close friend who was cutting and contemplating suicide.

  6. This post is amazing :D I read the article this morning, and this post sums up everything that went through my head while I was reading better than I could have written :) Thank you so much for this awesome post! :D YA Saves :D

  7. "Every time I pick up a YA book, I fall in love all over again" - YOU. SAID. IT. YES.

  8. I agree with this post. I personally don't like to read the really dark YA, because I don't relate to it. I've been blessed to have have a very happy childhood, with none of those struggles. However I see the merit for those who can relate. I don't like some of the books that I've read that glorify these dark things, cutting etc., but I am very happy to support the ones that can help those teens going through such difficulties to find something they can relate to and overcome their obstacles.

    Great post!

    -Kate the Book Buff

  9. Great response to that WSJ article! & Thank you so much for including XVI in such august company!

  10. *cheers and applauds*

    Well said, this is such a great post, I couldn't say it better myself. :D

  11. Great post! Yes, not all YA may be appropriate for all YA readers. But again? Parents need to be playing an active role in their childrens lives. It's okay to 'screen' what our kids read. I know that my kids are more sensitive to somethings and may not be ready to deal with somethings. That's okay. But be there. Talk to them. Read with them. When the time comes and they are confronted with any of the numerous things that kids today have to deal with? They will be informed and hopefully comfortable coming to their parents with questions and conversation. Although, I may disagree with many things discussed in the article? I am glad that it has caused the discussion. We as a society need to open our eyes!! :0)

  12. One of the best posts I've read regarding WSJ, Amber. Honestly, YA saves because it brings a sense of understanding to teens who need that understanding and information to move on and decide what's right for them. YA lit helps its readers realize that there are other options.

  13. Thanks for writing this! I wrote a response too--I think it's important that everyone shares why YA is such a beautiful genre in light of that article.

  14. I agree, but I would take a step further. These parents should be more concerned about if these things are happening to their children. Are they cutting, anorexic, or any of the other things they don't think should be in books. Are their friends dealing with it. Teens are way more influenced by peers than what one character does in a book.

  15. The interesting thing is that the author of the article didn't read any of these books and only mentioned THE HUNGER GAMES. Good research there.


Thinking of writing something below? Well, that's why you are awesome! I always love feedback!

This blog is an award free zone. With the demand of a full time job, blogging time is becoming much more precious and I just don't have the time to meet the demands of awards. Thanks so much for thinking of me anyway!

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Blog Design by Use Your Imagination Designs all images form the Impossible Things kit by Studio Tangie and Rebecca McMeen