This article from WSJ made me angry/dumbfounded.
YA fiction too “dark?” Really? One of the biggest selling series right now is about a vampire who doesn’t drink blood and won’t have sex with his devoted teenage love until they are married. This is dark stuff? Really?
‘Cause, that’s fantasy to me. Not really dark at all. A mysterious and “dangerous” man who protects and loves a fragile girl? Right…. and tomorrow prince charming will swoop into my life and whisk me to a castle in the mountains and we’ll live happily ever after forever without disease or death to bother us.
I get why teenage (girls) eat this up, it’s so romantic to have a (vampire) boy who wants to do the right thing for you.
Every time I visit the YA section, I’m overwhelmed by the number of books covered in hot pink and frilly little typefaces. I guess the frivilous world of teenage gossip is too “dark” these days.
Granted, there are some dark books. I read books about cutting and they were extremely interesting and informational. They explained why someone might do such a thing. There’s something difficult going on in their lives and they don’t know how to deal with it. Same as adult who drink too much or drug addicts that just can’t stop.
The nice thing about “dark” book fantasy is that the reader imagines what they read in the book, rather than actually seeing it with their eyes. Does Amy Freeman, the woman in the WSJ article, shelter her children from the news? Because I’ve seen and heard more gruesome things on there than I’ve read in any books.
Severed heads? Check. Incest and rape? Check. Photos of dead leaders? Check.
Or I’m sure they never watch reality TV, where belittling people is commonplace and bullying is just part of the game. Everyone loves to eliminate the person least popular on a weekly basis!
Perhaps the world of teen literature is dark because the world is dark and these books give teenagers a safe way to confront, discuss and think about the darkness in the real world.
Sometimes these books are dark simply because the main character is isolated in some way. Feeling isolated is a big deal in your teenage years. I had entirely supportive parents and a nice circle of friends when I was a teen, but there were still moments of isolation.
You know, I enjoy a good fluffy book every now and then too. But as a reader, I can tell you, there are plenty of options out there.
I suggest looking past the “top 10 sellers” stand next time. You can find all sort of books in the YA section. Also, I suggest that articles aren’t written without a trip to the book store to investigate.
But here is some proof that light stories exist (though I do hope a well-balanced reader would read a bit of darkness too… the world is not nice to those who are naive.)
- A personal favorite of mine is “Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging.” I loved this book, laughed the entire way through it and read it in a day. Oh, how a 14 year old girl can identify with another awkward teenage girl trying to navigate this crazy world of lipstick, boys and silly school happenings.
- “Sloppy Firsts” is another book that any teenage girl will probably identify with… even if they aren’t in the exact same boat as Jessica is. Yeah, they discuss sexual things, but being a teenager is also waking up to your sexual self. It can be a bit confusing. I’d rather my theoretical future child figure out their sexual self via reading than experimenting with the boy down the street who insists that pulling out is an effective birth control method. (See what I mean about real life being darker than books? This happens.)
- I just read “Fishbowl” last year, but I easily could have read this as a teen. It’s a story about friendships between women (with a bit of romance thrown in for entertainment). They’re roommates who accidentally burn their kitchen to a crisp… and they didn’t get renters insurance. They have to figure out a way to fix their kitchen (and they maintain a social life in the process!). Also, the main character is 22 and a virgin. Look, teenage girls, you don’t need to put out when you’re 15 to be awesome!
Yeah, I’m aware that this is girl-book heavy. Probably because I am a girl, this is what I’ve read.
But let’s not forget the entire Harry Potter series. It’s very friendly to both sexes and is a story about good fighting evil. (Again, I point to the news and current day happenings to show how entirely important it is for kids to know that sometimes the world is an ugly place, but you don’t have to be an ugly person while in an ugly place. This also fits with bullying and popularity contests in school — you don’t have to be a jerk to fit in, you can create your own niche.)
Anyway, that’s my 8 AM rant. Next time you want to buy a book for someone, consider their age, personality and do a little research on books that match their needs. Don’t just walk into bookstore and think a book is going to walk right up to you.
Also, be involved in your child’s life. Ask them about the book they’re reading, create dialogue. Don’t leave them in a vacuum to deal with what they’re reading. That’s irresponsible parenting — take the time to engage them in a conversation about the darkness. Find out why they might identify with it so much.
And, like I said, step away from the best seller display every now and then. There are more than 10 books written for young people.