This past weekend The Wall Street Journal published this article regarding young adult books with darker themes. Basically stating that the growing number of books geared towards teens is being overrun with books about vampires, werewolves, and *gasps!* real life issues such as eating disorders, self-injury, bullying and hate crimes. In essence, parents should steer their children clear of these books lest their reading habits become the means by which they are raised.
Not surprisingly this sparked a huge buzz on the Internet because it is not only missing the mark completely at what books can do to help raise awareness of teen issues but is essentially promoting censorship. Author Jackie Kessler, whose book Rage is mentioned in the article, gave this eloquent response explaining that with the widespread numbers of teens suffering from eating disorders and self-injury awareness is imperative! Allison Brennan has a beautifully written blog post that goes into great detail about her feelings on censorship and book banning as well as detailing how she utilizes books to start a dialogue with her children about the issues presented.
On the flip side, of course, are those who agree with the article and while I don’t fault them for their opinion, there is some misguided understanding of the purpose of books like Rage. Kessler says herself on her Twitter page:
RAGE does not glamorize self-injury. The descriptions [and] emotions are raw, and maybe graphic. But the point is NOT to glamorize it.
The point is to get readers to talk more frankly about what self-injury is – and to let [self-injurers] know they are not alone [and] there is help.
Lots of people are currently tweeting their feelings about the article and listing their favorite young adult books through the use of the hashtag #YAsaves. Over at Goodreads there’s an ongoing poll of young adult books that fit the article’s criteria and is serving as a wonderful selection of reading recommendations.
I am pressed for time as it’s the first day of class, but rest assured that further pontification on this topic will happen here.