I read this article
from the Wall Street Journal
about how YA lit is too full of darkness and horror and Bad Things, and this can't be a good thing For The Children. And I've read (and agree with) a lot of the responses it's getting from YA authors and editors--which is, basically, seriously? Are you kidding? The world is a dark place sometimes, and books that address that help us, kids and adults. They help you if you feel you're alone, they help you understand what other people may go through, they give you a safe space in which to explore things that are scary and, all too often, real.
I could also spend a whole post going on about how fantasy/horror and post-apocalyptic novels allow us the chance to deal with very real emotions in a way that feels safer than directly dealing with them, and
how they're just good stories without all this extra added stuff, but my point is actually something else entirely--
Did you see the books they suggested
Okay, apparently we shouldn't let our kids read the Hunger Games
books, about kids being sent to kill each other in an arena battle. No, we need to give our kids True Grit
, about a 14-year-old girl who travels with a middle-aged alcoholic, whom she has hired to kill the man who killed her father. There's a lovely scene where she falls into a rattlesnake infested pit that I found, you know, charming and lighthearted when I read it.
Let me see, we also have post-peak oil America, dead dogs, autism, adultery, book burning, World War II, World War III ... and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
(which, I admit, I haven't read, but that apparently deals with attempted rape).
Don't get me started on the stereotypical gender roles that are strongly implied by the books suggested for "young men" and "young women." (Here's a hint, True Grit
is not for the girls.)
Now, my point is not that kids shouldn't read True Grit
, or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
, or any of these other books listed--really, that retelling of Hamlet
might be something I want to read. No, my point is that ... well, for one, that this list is pretty hypocritical all the way around, but also--there are
no books out there for anyone over the age of 5 that do not involve something dark or scary. (Seriously, look at the list--they couldn't find them, either!) Why? Because you need conflict in a story or you don't have a story. You have a diary. And a boring one, at that.
The question is, does the book tell you the truth?
The end of Mockingjay
was not what I wished it could have been, because it told the truth. (I wanted
the pretty lie, but I also deeply appreciated not getting it.) Things happen, and they scar you forever. But scars mean you survive. (Harry Potter
--oddly, not on the list--tells you that, too, pretty much in chapter 1.) And that's a good thing to learn. That's something you need
to learn, whether you're dealing with abuse, or being bullied, or just not feeling quite like you belong where you are.ETA
: Kyle Cassidy
hits some points I did not, but that are really solid, too. Seriously, this article is flawed in a lot of ways.