Life is Dark

Most YA novels look a lot like this
Most YA novels look a lot like this

Meghan Cox Gurdon has been at it again with a response to the criticism against her article “Darkness Too Visible,” which I commented on in an earlier post.

Clearly, YA novels are out to get us and out to eat your children.

Gurdon still just doesn’t seem to get it.  Adolescents have to deal with a lot of tough issues.  I’m just going to point out a few things…

According to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network, approximately 44% of rape victims are under the age of 18.  Shouldn’t there be access to material that might help these young victims cope, especially when they feel as if they can’t talk to adults about it, or simply aren’t believed?  Stop pretending that American teenagers live perfect happy little lives.  More of them don’t than you’d like to believe.

And what’s with the whole attitude that the classics are okay but YA lit isn’t?  Have you actually read the classics?  Last time I checked, Romeo and Juliet were two horny teenagers who killed themselves because their parents wouldn’t let them get married AT THE AGE OF 13.  How is that okay in your view, but Sherman Alexie is oh so scandalous?  What about “Lord of the Flies,” where teens stranded on an island club each other to death?  That’s okay, and Hunger Games isn’t?  What about Paradise Lost, with the whole Satan-Sin-Death incest rape with hell hounds crawling in and out of a vagina?  That’s okay, but YA lit is not?  Or the ancient Greeks, where we find Oedipus, the original motherfucker, and Medea giving gifts of poisoned robes that eat away the skin when worn by her victims?  Remember Medea also killed her own kids as revenge.  Classic literature is a lot darker than you think.

I read a book about anorexia when I was an adolescent, and guess what happened? It scared me shitless, and I made sure to always eat my vegetables. It also was a good preparation for when I later met people who were actually struggling with it.

I think that Gurdon doesn’t give adolescents enough credit when she assumes that everything in a book is condoned.  As this article from CNN states, the teen pregnancy rate is at a historic low, the suicide rate is going down, drunk driving among teens is going down, and fewer teens smoke.  Have a little faith in the youth.

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5 comments

  1. I read the original article and the “defense” of it and the one thing she ignored in her defense is that she advocated censorship and then defended it with the old “If you tell a child about X, they will want to do it.” Children are not computers that you can program at a certain age and then forget about them.

    Also, talking about the books she suggested, in the original article she (or someone at WSJ who does the webpage coding) there is a sidebar with a recommended list of books for “Young Men” and another for “Young Women.”

    Guess which book appears on the first list but not the second: Fahrenheit 451.

    Go figure….

    I don’t want to spam the page, but I wrote a full critique here:

    http://ralfast.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/staring-back-at-the-darkness/

    1. Thanks for the comment! Gurdon really underestimates the ability of youth to think for themselves. Also, as someone who always read books I wasn’t supposed to as a kid, I think teens need to be exposed to different perspectives to grow into well-rounded adults.

  2. I know that if something doesn’t settle right with me in a book I’ll just stop reading it and find another. She makes it seem like the youth are being subjected to dark topics against their consent. They make the choice to read what they want. Like you said, have faith in the youth.

    1. Exactly. There have also been times where I’ve picked up a book, found the content to be a bit much for me, and then come back to it years later and loved it. Slaughterhouse Five was one of those for me… I think a better message to be getting from the way that YA novels are selling is that young adults actually read!

  3. I want to thank you to subscribing to my blog and also to agree with you on this. I have always wondered why parents are so afraid of their children, that one bit of information on, for example, drugs or sex, will automatically and forever turn them into addicts or perverts. How can we expect our children to function if we raise them in ignorance of real life?
    Again, thank you.