Sunday, June 5, 2011

Twitter done blew up, ya'll

Today I witnessed the implosion on twitter in response to a rather bizarre Wall Street Journal article on the supposed decline in appropriateness of young adult fiction. I saw the article linked from Publisher's Weekly on my twitter feed this morning (confession: I scan twitter as to get my mind going when I first get out of bed). I was weirded out by it, and once I clicked back to my twitter feed, I saw a few of the YA authors I follow were more than weirded out - they were angry.

Author Maureen Johnson reportedly started the #yasaves hashtag, and the topic trended immediately, like in 30 minutes. If this is too much twitter-speak, let me translate: you tell a coworker at lunch about Jane getting dumped by her boyfriend, and by the time you get back to your desk, your entire row of cubicles is discussing who to set Jane up with next. Twitter is that fast, but on a global scale.

The jist of the article is the author thinks YA lit has taken a turn too dark, that it's all vampires, suicide and self-mutilation. From my past 6 months of reading mostly YA, I have not read a single book about a vampire, suicide or self-mutilation. Instead, I read about a girl weighed down with grief over her father's death (The Truth About Goodbye, Sarah Dessen), a teen boy whose job it is to find trends and make them happen, then solves a crime (So Yesterday, Scott Westerfeld), a psychicly-gifted socialite in 1880s Baltimore (The Vespertine, Saundra Mitchell), a boy who finds himself while in search of his mysterious girl-next-door-neighbor who disappears during the last days of high school (Paper Towns, John Green). I could go on, but you get the point.

True, I am a bit over the vampire craze, so I sought out other books. I also read a ton of book review blogs and follow authors on twitter. Still, all of their books were easy to find at Borders and my public library. Just sayin'.

Beyond the fact there ARE books in the YA genre that aren't "dark," as the article suggests, the other issue is why are those "dark" books written, and who is reading them? I'm not saying every book about teen suicide or whatever is a good book, but having been trained in and taught suicide prevention education post-college, I see the need for literature to deal with this for teens. It was sad when I saw first hand some school districts did not want suicide prevention ed in their classrooms, either out of fear or they did not think it worth the cost.  Those conversations need to start before a tragedy happens. YA lit can't solve everything, in the same way preventative education can't catch every kid at risk, but shunning it out of fear isn't the answer either.

Look, I don't have kids, and I would never tell anyone what they should or should not let their kid read. I think it's a rather easy issue to solve. Read what your kids read. Recommend books that you think are appropriate. Ask them about what they read. Ask a librarian for suggestions. Go to a bookstore where employees know about books and can help you find them. I don't feel like this is brain surgery - go figure, it has nothing to do with surgery! I don't recall ever being told I couldn't read a book, but I usually  had to report back a little bit about it. And for that I'm grateful.


  1. Great post! I didn't know about this article but I saw the #yasaves hashtag all over yesterday. I think it's exciting that there is so much diveristy out there for young adult readers. When I was a kid there was barely a young adult section. When my parents were kids it didn't exist. We should be celebrating YA and the author should realize there is far more out there than the dark, twisty stuff.

  2. Wow. Talk about getting a conversation going. Wish I had seen all the Twitter action. As for YA books...People tend to see what they want. But I do know my two published YA books do not have vampires, or talk about suicide in them. :)

  3. I agree with you 100 percent! Just because you can't find a suitable book for your kid in a bookstore, does not mean you can stereotype the genre. It only means that you need to browse more thoroughly, or that the bookstore you went to carries very limited YA book choices.

    Thank you so much for dropping by my blog, and for the kind words! Reading books has been my oasis after long hours in the hospital, and actually those 'dark' books helped me understand and be more compassionate with younger patients :D

    I am your 35th and newest follower! Have a great weekend!

  4. Thanks!

    I was just at Target yesterday, they have an entire aisle of YA. Their whole book section is maybe two aisles and a few endcaps. I saw the books with black and dark purple covers about vampires and other fantasy topics, and next to that, an entire half of the aisle, books that had nothing to do with the supernatural, occult or people killing themselves.

    There is a follow up article I'll post about.

  5. Great post, thanks! The displays at the large book sellers DO focus on the Vampire/Monster trend, so it can make finding other books a bit more challenging. But I do believe that YA fiction is as varied and diverse as the up and coming adults that read it - and I'm happy for that. My YA years involved a lot of unhappy things and it was great to read of characters that experienced the same struggles. I also enjoyed the_whitewashed everyone is fine and happy_books as well. I shudder to think that choice could ever be taken away.


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