More than a week ago, The Wall Street journal posted an article, which talks about how there’s too much violence, drugs and stuff in young adult literature. Quite naturally, a lot of people disagreed. They tweeted #yasaves and there were a lot of blog posts (one of my favourites). Now, the whole thing seems to have quieted down a little, but I was too busy to put my thoughts on the subject together then, so here goes.
The main point I got from the WSJ article was that there’s too much focus on ugly stuff in YA lit, and that it may somehow make the reader do that stuff and make them think that it’s OK. First off, I don’t think that most readers are that susceptible, and if they are, there’s a deeper problem there, which is not caused by reading, rather, it’s just brought to the surface. A very good point was made by many folks around the interwebs – if you don’t acknowledge something, you don’t stop it from existing. The ugly thing is still there. Talking about it helps. Reading or listening other people talk about it helps too, because it turns the ugly thing from the black unspeakable mess inside you into something definable, something that you can deal with. I mean, there’s got to be a reason why during group therapy everyone is encouraged to say whatever they’re feeling and stuff.
As for the argument that reading books containing, say, drug use or self-harm, makes one believe those things are OK and that you should do them… I haven’t read that many YA books, but the ones I did read (and that includes Melvin Burgess’s Heroin, Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting, Anthony Burgess’s Clockwork Orange) had quite the opposite effect on me. Of course, there are always going to be people who react in a destructive way to a lot of things, but, I think, if there weren’t YA lit, it would just as easily be something else.
I do think that, if nothing else, YA lit can help a reader understand that it’s OK to have dark thoughts sometimes, that it’s OK to express them by talking or writing, and most importantly that you aren’t alone.
Kind of sad that there’s only one of John Green’s books available in this forgotten corner of the world,
P.S. As I was trying to think of a cool title for this post, I had a vivid mental image from an animated movie called Spirited Away. There’s a black creature in it. At first it looks nice and friendly, but then it starts demanding more and more food and it becomes quite frightening, and then a girl comes in and gives the creature something so that it vomits everything out, and it gets better. I don’t really know if there’s much point to that image, but I guess it’s just another way of showing that it’s better to get everything out. Or something. It’s past midnight and I don’t know what I’m talking about anymore.