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?

3 thoughts on “TGIF-Dark Reads

  • June 11, 2011 at 8:26 pm
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    All of this WSJ drama has certainly paved the way for some incredible discussions. I just finished Hush – a book that can certainly be described as dark – and I was reminded all over again of the absolute NECESSITY of YA literature that deals with the “darker stuff.” Even if we aren’t living the nightmares that some of our favorite protagonists have to survive, we are surrounded by their real life counterparts in our neighborhoods and school hallways. We have a responsibility to shed light wherever we can. I’m so thankful for books like Hush which remind us to shine a light in the midst of darkness!

  • June 11, 2011 at 8:46 pm
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    @Katie – hush is a great example of a YA book tackling a weighty issue that needs to be talked about and not hidden under a rug. That book bothered me because so many characters were forced to suffer so much because everyone was willing to ignore such an awful act. Thanks for commenting!

  • June 11, 2011 at 11:07 pm
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    Fantastic response to the WSJ article. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts. Well said!

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