A lot of the young adult community (authors, readers, publishers, even teachers and librarians) have been up in arms defending Young Adult literature after the Wall Street Journal posted a scathing article by critic Meghan Cox Gurdon (read it here). She claimed that the content of Young Adult literature was too dark and that it was normalizing behavior such as self-injury (cutting).
If you want to see the online response, just pop on Twitter and search the hashtag #YASaves. There is already a Facebook group in response as well. This reminds me of a huge debate the cropped up over a film that came out when I was 13–Kids, directed by Larry Clark. Check out the Kids wikipedia page if you don’t know what it is.
The movie was rated NC-17 due to its content, especially considering the principal characters were young teens (ages 14-17, mostly). It was considered too graphic and met with much resistance. The problem, in truth, was that people didn’t want to admit how this movie captured the real lifestyles of some teens (especially urban ones, like the New York teens in the movie). It addressed serious issues such as alcohol, violence, drugs, promiscuity, and rape. There is nothing “feel good” about this movie. There is only the feeling after watching it of, “Wow. That was intense.”
I think the movie was wonderful and really struck home with me, an urban teen who saw these types of events on a regular basis growing up. Drugs, violence, alcohol–all of these things were very real to me, as I was surrounded by it. When my younger sister turned 16, I had her watch this movie as an informational piece: “This is what happens if you get sucked into this world,” I cautioned her.
Art imitates life. I believe this with all of my heart and it goes for any form of art: music, film, books, painting. The YA books discussed in the Wall Street Journal article are just a reflection of society. Refusing to look in the mirror doesn’t make you any less ugly; it just makes you oblivious to how ugly you really are.