By now, most of you probably know that Meghan Cox Gurdon sparked a controversy in the Wall Street Journal* by writing about the “explicit abuse, violence and depravity” present in today’s YA literature.
The gist of the piece is that violent and disturbing behaviors in teen novels have the potential to “help normalize them and, in the case of self-harm, may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might otherwise never have imagined such extreme measures.”
The most-quoted line from the essay concerns the B-word. Gurdon writes: “In the book trade, this is known as ‘banning.’ In the parenting trade, however, we call this ‘judgment’ or ‘taste.’”
Surprise, surprise: YA authors and fans of YA fiction did not like this essay one bit—and responded en masse via the Twitter hashtag #YAsaves. (As for me, I think the thesis of the essay is just . . . eye-roll inducing. If I had a teen daughter, I’d give her Lauren Myracle’s Shine over violent video games and movies—or, you know, the nightly news—any day of the week. Not to mention there are plenty of light and fluffy YA books out there—even many of Lauren Myracle’s other books! If teens want to read about romance, adventure, fantasy or any other topic, a good librarian or bookseller can help point them toward lots of great books that don’t involve blood, guts or self-mutilation.)
Besides following the Twitter hashtag, I’ve been keeping notes on a few of the most thoughtful and interesting responses to Gurdon’s essay, for your reading pleasure:
- Roger Sutton, editor of The Horn Book, thinks “the books and the kids are all right.”
- Linda Holmes of NPR’s Monkey See blog writes: “Banning is banning, not guidance.”
- Cecil Castellucci (author of Rose Sees Red) argues that “YA books with hard topics and uncomfortable subject matter do save lives.”
- The oft-banned (and oft-reviewed in BookPage) Laurie Halse Anderson writes: “Great young adult literature connects us. It bridges the darkness. It saves lives.”
- Debut novelist Veronica Roth writes of why the article didn’t make her angry—but it did make her “heave a huge sigh.”
As a parent, teacher, librarian or simply as a reader: What was your reaction to Gurdon’s essay? Do you agree that today’s teen lit is in a disturbing rut—and that’s a dangerous trend? Should kids be able to read whatever the heck they want?
Let us know in the comments.
*The cynical side of me thinks she also made her editor verrry happy with this click-baiting piece of writing. Not since Amy Chua’s “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” have I seen so much commentary and outrage concerning an article about a book!