So... this is the second and final part of Welcome to the Darkside (or my thoughts on YA is too dark). You can check out the first part here. Let's just jump into it, continuing from yesterday...
Oh, So Glamorous!
Another thing that was addressed in the article and in the radio talk two days ago, was whether or not these books glamorized certain behaviors, like cutting or drugs or eating disorders or even incest. If it was such a good idea to expose young people to these kind of things that might not have touched them otherwise.
That's nuts. Talking about something is not endorsing it or advertising it - these are real issues that touch many people's lives and I can't imagine a world where not talking about something is better, it just becomes an elephant in the room and that never helps anyone.
Darkness touches people every day in many ways. Look at me: I'm a college educated 27 year old, firmly middle class, with two loving parents who still love each other after 30 years of marriage, never had to wonder where my next meal was coming from, and other that fighting with my sister, I've known no violence. On paper, it's a perfect life. And I think I'm one of the luckiest people ever, but I've had to deal with overwhelming anxieties and crippling fears and that's my reality and it had nothing to do with the books I read.
As a side note, I think there are far more disturbing things happening on YA these days, such as Bad Romance. Personally, it worries me that so many books portray lust, stalker-like behavior, and obsession as True Love - I had a guy stalk me when I was 13 years old, and it's not fun, it's not romantic and to be honest it was right down terrifying. Do I think these books should be censored? Hell, no! But I think more people should talk about it.
It's Not a How To Manual
Another part of the argument is how these books can get very graphic and descriptive and how that might put ideas in people's heads. I suppose everything is possible but for me that sort of stinks of blaming the media for people's actions.
Just as I think you can't blame certain types of music or films every time some wacko goes and opens fire at a mall, you can't blame books for putting the idea of anorexia on a teen's head. Those people are sick, it's an illness as much as cancer, and blaming it on what they read and listen to it's the cowards way out, and it's a lie.
Age-Appropriate is Not Censorship
This topic is very dear to me. I don't believe in censorship, I don't think books should be kept off the shelves on terms of subject matter. But I do believe there is such thing as age-appropriate.
There are books that I wouldn't feel comfortable giving a thirteen year old, because of they way certain things are handled, the language, whatever, but I wouldn't mind if they read it at, say, fifteen or sixteen once they were a little more mature.
But I believe that parents have the right to make that call for their children (though not for other people's children) - it's their right and I'm all for it, but they HAVE TO do their homework and read what their kids want to/are reading. It's called parenting, people. Do it!
In general terms, I use the Meg Cabot approach: "If you are wondering if you're old enough to read it, you probably aren't old enough."
And In The End...
After all of this, I have two things to say. First: It's time adults stop condescending younger readers - they can differentiate fact from fiction, they can handle difficult topics and there is no reason to think they can't just because they are younger.
And second, that I think the discussion is good. I would love to see more parents involved on what their kids are reading; I would love to see mature and fair dialogue about the things happening in literature these days.
I think it's on everyone's best interest to discuss it - though never censor it.
And I'll like to end this all by quoting author Geoff Herbach, whom I had the pleasure of hosting on the blog a few weeks ago: "The more I write, the more I love everybody. Writing makes me see other peoples’ perspectives and follow chains of mistakes that get people into big trouble and I have empathy and I just start loving to whole freaking world for all the disaster and sadness we all have to make it through… There’s good stuff, too, of course. Thank God."
Think it over, it applies to reading too.
And, in conclusion... COOKIES!