Jun 6, 2011


It's funny but when something controversial comes around with young adult literature I don't often feel the need to comment. There are so many people that will comment on it I just don't see what I can add. However, I do feel the need to add something to this debate (talking about the Wall Street Journal article).

First of all, how many books did the author of the article actually look at? Yes, there is a lot of what she described in some of the YA books out there, but only some. Not nearly all. It just drives me nuts when someone makes such a generalizing statement!

Secondly, the mother that is described in the beginning, why didn't she go and ask one of the workers at the bookstore? That is why they are there, to help you find appropriate books for you or your reader. Since becoming a librarian I get called from people in bookstores all the time (seriously, at least once a month). Or people ask me for reading ideas for their child before they get to the bookstore/library. There are people out there that can help you find what you need!

Thirdly, I read Go Ask Alice (a book referenced in the article) probably five times from seventh grade on. It was fascinating to me because it was so different from my life. I didn't do drugs, have sex or even drink in high school. NOT ONCE. Yet, books that showed me a different life were so interesting to me! I loved reading them.

I was so, so lucky to have parents who were aware of what I read and were available to me when I had questions, but didn't censor any of it.

I will admit I had a very hard time reading The Marbury Lens and often wondered how it could be considered YA. But I finished it because, again, I was caught up in the story. I wonder what the author of the article would think of The Knife of Never Letting Go, which is YA, and dark and sad and amazing?!

HOWEVER, I did agree with some things in the article. While I think that swearing is something kids deal with and hear on a regular basis, I don't think it needs to be really liberally used in YA books. I also think that many, many kids are living horrible lives and while some of them will find a kindred-ness with books that portray similar lives, there is also some thing to be said for books that let them simply escape (ie fantasy and fun).

There is a place on my library shelf for both. I will booktalk both kinds of books. I will help kids find both types of books. Because I want kids to love reading and however I can get them to connect with a book, I will take it!

(I also bristle at tone the author of the article used. It;s like she thinks everyone involved with young adult books is so happy to corrupt. It's kind of a weird tone).

One more thing, I read this post. It is very, very sad. I also know that sometimes things meant to teach or make people aware are actually the very things people use as a "how-to." I know this is true because I have several friends who went through eating disorders. One of them once told me that the videos she saw in health class designed to make people not want an eating disorder gave her the best ideas on how to hide hers.

I love what Veronica Roth wrote on this subject and what Andye at Reading Teen wrote as well.

I will also say that I evaluate most the books I buy for my library. Not so that I can throw them out because they are too dark, but so I will know what to recommend for individual readers. I feel I have a responsibility as a librarian to do that and I know several parents who very much appreciate that I do that!

Well, this started out in one place, went all over the map and ended up in totally a different place!


  1. I wondered the same thing about the mother in the beginning example. If she had only asked, she would have been given more recommendations than her credit card could handle. I don't really like reading "issue" books, and yet I still have plenty of books to read and review on my blog and more than I can ever hope to read on my TBR. I just wanted to hand the author of the article and the mother in the example a copy of The Penderwicks or Princess for Hire (hot pink and sparkly cover!).

  2. I think if you want to find something to complain about, you can, be it YA books, adult books, movies, etc. People go on and on about how society is going down, down, down. If you stop to look around, you can realize there's so much to appreciate. Like if you stop to ask the bookseller/librarian, as you said. There's always options.
    I do agree that there's too much profanity in a lot of YA, but it sure is true to life.
    Sorry for the rambling comment.