Tuesday, June 7, 2011

In Defense of Darkness

There has been quite a hubbub this week over a Wall Street Journal article attacking Young Adult literature for being too dark. In the article “Darkness Too Visible” Meghan Cox Gourdon tells the tragic tale of a mother going to a Barnes and noble bookstore looking to find books for her 13 year old daughter only to find "nothing, not a thing, that I could imagine giving my daughter. It was all vampires and suicide and self-mutilation, this dark, dark stuff." Meghan Cox Gourdon sees this as a trend in YA fiction to mainly publish darker and darker stories filled with horrors and abuse. REALLY? What about Meg Cabot (YP FIC CABOT) Ally Carter (YP FIC CARTER), Sarah Mylnowski (YP FIC MYLNOWSK), E. Lockhart (YP FIC LOCKHART), Maureen Johnson (YP FIC JOHNSON), Catherine Murdoch (YP FIC MURDOCH) or Joan Bauer (YP FIC BAUER)? Meghan Cox Gourdon COMPLETELY ignores the wealth of available YA literature that is very light, positive, and vampire free. She makes ZERO effort in doing any kind of research as to what the ratio of “Dark” versus “Judy Blume-like” books that are published. Also, Judy Blume? She hasn’t been read by most 13-18 in decades and when she was she often was controversial for her time.

She also suggests that the violence and dark themes could normalize things such as self mutilation and lead to increase in the behavior. Unfortunately she doesn’t do any research to back up this claim (Maybe because it is an entirely baseless claim).

She also paints a lot of literature with one Too Dark brush. She calls The Hunger Games series “hype-violent.” Really? The series is violent but it isn’t hyper violent. There aren’t gruesome and graphic descriptions of the violence and it is a power look at the costs of war and violence in American society.

All in all there is loads of choice in YA books: dark, light, medium dark, and anything and everything in between. But to claim that realistically portrayed problems that some teens face is “like a hall of fun-house mirrors, constantly reflecting back hideously distorted portrayals of what life is.” is terribly offensive to teens that to have the problems that Cox Gourdon finds so horrible teens are reading about. Each teen should get the books they want or need and fortunately we have more choice in that now than ever before.

No comments: