TGIF-Dark Reads

Ginger at GReads started a new weekly meme called TGIF at GReads.  I love memes that are more interactive, so I decided to participate as often as I can. 

This week’s question is:

YA Saves: How do you feel about the "dark" books filling the YA shelves today?

My answer:

Oh, my.  After the WSJ published an article about how “dark” current YA novels are, the interwebz lit up.  The author goes so far as to condemn current YA books as “depraved.”  In addition to her views, I found her tone offensive.  I don’t expect to be talked down to while reading a newspaper, especially one as noteworthy as WSJ.  I am half wondering if the author didn’t write her article with the intention of stirring the pot, and getting more notoriety from this piece.

“How dark is contemporary fiction for teens? Darker than when you were a child, my dear: So dark that kidnapping and pederasty and incest and brutal beatings are now just part of the run of things in novels directed, broadly speaking, at children from the ages of 12 to 18.”

I like the trend toward “dark" social issues, because these books make me think.  What would I do in this situation? What would I do if my friend was in this situation?  How could I help them, or how could I help myself?  Reading should engage the mind, and stories that elicit an emotional response are all the more cherished by me.  Nobody’s life is perfect, and bad things happen to good people.  Kids wander off down the wrong path, even when they have wonderful parents.  What about the kids with not so great parents?  Where do they find comfort from the challenges that they are facing?  Sometimes people don’t have a trusted person they can discuss their problems with; books can offer an outlet, and assure them that they aren’t alone. 

I have so many responses to this article, but I’ll keep it down to just a few points.  Dystopian books are one of my favorite genres currently.  They offer a wonderful escape from my everyday problems.  Dystopian stories are suspenseful, and they offer a hopeful message.  It doesn’t matter how awful things get for the protagonists – they refuse to give up, and they use their cleverness help them survive.  They take charge of themselves, because waiting for someone else to save them would result in their death.  Failure isn’t an option, so they don’t waste time even considering that possibility.  They are the glass is half full kind of people.  There is a solution to every problem, and they will find it.  Why is that a bad message? 

Exploring contemporary issues in YA literature should give the topics a platform for discussion.  Go to CNN.com any day of the week, and you will read news articles that will turn your hair white.  This stuff is really happening, in real life, to real people.  Discuss it, people!  Talk to your kids about it if you are a parent.  Don’t ignore it!  Become engaged in your child’s reading! My mom was – if I read something troubling, I talked to her about it.  We didn’t (and still don’t) agree on solutions, but at least we talked about it.  Minds are like sponges- in order to grow, they need to be filled up. Don’t deny young minds nourishment just because you feel uncomfortable with some of the problems facing your kids today.

What do you think about the article?  And the current state of the YA market?

Picture Book Review: Chamelia by Ethan Long

 

Title: Chamelia

Author: Ethan Long

Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers

ISBN: 978-0316086127

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Meet Chamelia! Chamelia is a chameleon. Most chameleons like to blend in, but Chamelia prefers to stand out. She just loves being the center of attention. But when standing out means being left out, can Chamelia learn to share the spotlight?

Review:

Chamelia is a very fun and colorful picture book.  Chamelia is a chameleon, but contrary to the rest of her species, she doesn’t want to blend in, she wants to stand out.  After learning that standing out makes it hard to fit in, she learns to compromise but still be herself. 

I love the illustrations and the use of bright fabrics to make Chamelia pop off of each page.  The other chameleons are shades of a very pale green, but the title character is a darker, more vivid green.  The illustrations are muted shades of pastels, while Chamelia is a bright splash.  She is also an accessory queen, with tasteful shoes and purses to prove that she truly is a fashionesta. 

In her eagerness to stand out, though, she occasionally stumbles by being too different from her peers.  This gets poor Chamelia down in the dumps, and a brightly attired but very unhappy chameleon is a sad sight indeed.  With some help from her parents, Chamelia learns how to stand out, but still fit in at school.

I loved the message in Chamelia, and hope that it helps younger readers to find the courage to be themselves. 

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher