The Wall Street Journal weighed in on darkness in YA novels over the weekend. You can read the piece here.
There’s a lot of tacts I could take about this. And already most blogs and tweeters have already explored most of them. Check out Holly Black’s Salon response here for one take on the article. Has YA become too dark? Is there too much sex and violence in YA? Should we be worried about our children’s inner lives if these are the books they read? Does darkness in literature serve a purpose?
All decent questions, I suppose. Except the article just points fingers and puts some complete absurdities out there. It begins by telling us about a mother at a local megabookstore who literally could not find a non-dark title for her 13 year old daughter.
Really? What bookstore was she in that didn’t have light chicklit titles like Louise Renison’s Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging (the only “sex” in the book is some mild kissing). Or slightly more grown-up, but still run of the mill teenage romances like Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist or Dairy Queen? Was she really somewhere without any Sarah Dessen books? Did they actually not have Libba Bray’s award-winning Going Bovine? Was this some bizarre bookstore that didn’t stock any of Tamora Pierce’s light fantasy works or Scott Westerfeld’s popular but totally light alternate history Leviathan? She couldn’t find a copy of Ally Carter’s cute, not violent at all, spy series?
I’m sorry, but I don’t buy it. Sure, there are more dark titles out there now, but to act like there’s nothing on the shelves at your local megabookstore that isn’t rape, vampires, and psychopaths is patently absurd.
Then, when the article literally called Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian not all right, it completely lost me. Do you really want to say that an award-winning, partly biographical novel that captures the problem of bullying and may actually be the best work by one of the best Native American writers out there isn’t “all right”? Really? Maybe there’s a discussion to be had about these issues and about the need for more balance at the bookstore. Maybe there do need to be more gentle, happy ending books for teens. More “it gets better” and less darkness. But to act as if some of the books she names don’t have literary merit strikes me as encouraging censorship of the worst sort.