June 7, 2011

#YASaves? Twitterers defend "depraved" YA novels.


There’s been, as to be expected, some strong reactions to Meghan Cox Gurdon’s article in the WSJ which describes the new “lurid…profanity” of YA fiction, and warns that “a careless young reader—or one who seeks out depravity—will find himself surrounded by images not of joy or beauty but of damage, brutality and losses of the most horrendous kinds.” One response was the Twitter hashtag #YASaves which contains testimonies by people about the positive impact of dark fiction on troubled lives. The Wall Street Journal itself use the Storify social-network narrative building app (probably worthy of a MobyLives post of its own) to depict the #YASaves story as a slideshow.

Meanwhile, Macy Halford at The New Yorker‘s Book Bench points out that believing that literature is at its most shocking and morally empty is a perennial observation. She quotes from a “1985 article in The English Journal called ‘A Brief but Troubled Season: Problems in YA Fiction.'”:

The problem with adolescent problem novels—now that taboos have been broken—is that they tend to glamorize adolescent problems. Confined safely to 150 pages of uncomplicated fiction, the problems of family tension and violence, child abuse, alcoholism, drug addiction, mental illness, sexual frustration and exploitation, truancy, delinquency, even terminal illness and death in the family lose their rough edges and take on the excitement of a forbidden underworld.

A reminder that the question of what helps and what harms a child’s mind goes back at least to the 1980s. And, of course, many hundreds of years before that.