|Photo from blog The Tales Compendium|
(For those of you who don't use Twitter, that means lots of Twitter users posted comments about YA lit with "#YASaves" attached, which "trended" the topic. Trending occurs when large numbers of users are writing the same word or phrase, thus pushing that word or phrase to the forefront. Twitter keeps up with repeated words or phrases like #YASaves or a celebrity name or top news story and posts them as "trending topics" for users to see and click on, which allows users to then see all comments posted that include the phrase.)
Most upsetting to many people was not the idea of an opinion piece attacking themes in YA literature. It was the fact that the author of the article is WJS children's book reviewer Meghan Cox Gurdon, a person who seemingly would be a proponent of YA rather than an opponent. While for the most part, I am going to link to other (more succinct and intelligent) responses to the article, I will say that I find two things most interesting about the article, and both appear in the sidebar.
The sidebar offers some more appropriate books for YA readers, according to Gurdon (or the WSJ, as I'm not sure who compiled the list or wrote the sidebar). First, the list is divided into "Books for Young Men" and "Books for Young Women," headings antiquated both by the terms used to label the genders and also by the idea that "young men" and "young women" could never possible enjoy the same pieces of literature. As their minds are so dramatically different, I suppose it only makes sense that boys and girls have separate reading recommendations. Perhaps soon we will also separate their learning environments so that we can teach them more appropriate lessons -- you know, lessons that apply to males and lessons that apply to females, since those must also (obviously) be very different. (And here I have to take a deep, deep breath before going on, so that this does not degenerate into a feminist rant of a very different sort.)
Second (laughably, proprosteriously, ridiculously), included in the list for "young men" is Ray Bradbury's Fahreinheit 451. Which, if I am not mistaken, is a novel-length rant against censorship. An idea that is overwhelmingly proposed in the article itself. My eyes are crossing with the ludicrousness of the entire thing. Even the WSJ describes the book this way: "[I]n a society where rampant political correctness has resulted in the outlawing of books, Guy Montag works as a 'fireman' tasked with destroying intellectual contraband. . . . When Guy accidentally reads a line from a book, he finds himself strangely stirred—and impelled to an act of recklessness that will change his life forever." Yes. Fighting against censorship and banning books.
Now, some writers take on the topic in a less-adverb-heavy (i.e., more well-written) manner:
- Judy Blume, the queen of banned books in America (my unofficial title for her, of course) and an author who was one of my favorite writers when I was a young adult myself, writes about being one of the most censored and controversial YA writers ever in an excerpt from Places I Never Meant to Be: Original Stories by Censored Writers.
- Writer Macy Halford, who contributes to The New Yorker's book blog The Book Bench, gave a brief history of the issue of themes in YA lit, which dates back more than twenty-five years to a 1985 journal article. She also discusses the manner in which the fight ensued over cyberspace and questions both sides' fighting styles. Halford's is a well-written look at both sides of the issue.
- YA author A.S. King (whose last novel Please Ignore Vera Dietz was mind-blowingly awesome -- go back and read my review for more info) writes a short opinion on her blog Here's Me Using the Word Blog in a Sentence about the controversy. Her post is titled "About that 'article' (opinion piece)," which pretty much sums it up: it is less newsworthy article and more op-ed piece.
- Also, a blog post from child psychologist and YA author Sarah Fine, whose opinion is very similar to that of King. But hers is a bit lengthier and more detailed explanation, which I enjoyed reading. (I found this post through author Sara J. Henry, who retweeted a link from A. S. King.)
- NPR blogger Linda Holmes, writing for their blog Monkey See, wrote "Seeing Teenagers as We Wish They Were: The Debate Over YA Fiction" in response to the WSJ article. Holmes talks about "the quaint but sad idea that teenagers, if you don't give them The Hunger Games, can be effectively surrounded by images of joy and beauty," an idea she feels is present in the original article. She argues vehemently with this idea, through recalling her own teenage reading choices.
- New York magazine's rebuttal, "Hey Wall Street Journal: YA Fiction is Just Fine"
- The UK's Guardian on the topic, in "Yes, teen fiction can be dark -- but it shows teenagers they aren't alone"
- Publishers Weekly blog ShelfTalker, "Young Adult Fiction Is Not All Doom and Gloom," written by children's bookseller Josie Leavitt
- To end with, a blogger for the School Library Journal's blog A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy, wrote a heated response, but best of all she listed other people's responses at the bottom. As a result, her post "There's Dark Things in Them There Books!" is a virtual clearinghouse for more reading material on this topic. So if you are interested in more, go visit the post, scroll towards the bottom, and click to your heart's content.
To read all Twitter users' responses and comments using the #YASaves hashtag, click here.
As you are reading this post, I am heading to the beach! (I may possibly have mentioned this yesterday...) Gulf of Mexico, here I come. I have with me that fabulous, towering stack of books. More on my vacation reading coming up next week!