Tuesday, July 12, 2011

YA saves... and it doesn't need saving

A customer today brought up this article, as many people have in the month or so since its Wall Street Journal appearance. The article's gist is that young adult literature these days is too dark and a bad influence on teens. That's a simplification, and I encourage you to read the article and think about the author's assertions, which do come with qualifying statements. But I also encourage you to search for "YA Saves" and see what you find, because lots and lots and lots of people have responded to the article with great points and real stories. It seems novels that discuss some of the less pleasant experiences our world has to offer have helped teens understand those experiences and even get through them.

Our Young Adult section has plenty of books that are dark in the way the article says YA novels are dark. They portray teens who suffer from depression or eating disorders, teens who are physically or sexually abused, teens who abuse drugs or alcohol, teens who are marginalized far beyond having no one to sit with at lunch. The fact is, such teens exist, and books about these problems can help them and those around them feel less alone. Other teens, motivated by curiosity and very likely compassion, might just find such novels more informative than, say, TV shows with similar content.

There's another kind of dark on the YA shelves, too: the fun kind. I doubt that many teens seek out books to help them process their encounters with vampires, but they do seek out vampire books. Whether one is having a relatively easy adolescence or a difficult one, there's a lot to be said for escapism.

Beyond all that, though, we have plenty of YA novels (and graphic novels!) that are much "lighter." If you're looking for something funny or something hopeful, we've got it. Really. Many of my favorites fit into this category.

The WSJ article was touched off by a parent's complaint that she couldn't find anything in a bookstore to give her thirteen-year-old. Ask us! We love to talk about this stuff. (We'll probably approach you first.)

Ask your kids, too. They're the experts.

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