YA Saves, At Least It Saved Me
July 11, 2011
In my everyday librarian experience, I meet with a lot of positivity. I also meet a few "Negative Nellies." Sometimes they don't like my displays, sometimes they hate the limitations that come with using a public space, sometimes they dislike the books we carry, sometimes they hate my programming choices...but never have I had a person completely bash an entire genre of books. Maybe that is why the recent article published in the Wall Street Journal had such an impact on me.
The article talks about how Young Adult fiction focuses on dark topics like abuse, addiction, mental illness, crime, and other controversial topics. The author seems to devalue the importance of talking about these subjects in a way that teenagers can experience in a safe way. She seems to forget that many teenagers are dealing with these very subjects in their daily lives, and need an outlet.
But enough negativity, the real thing I wanted to talk about is the literal outpouring of responses defending YA lit, and how it SAVES. In fact, check out twitter #yasaves. These responses came from YA authors, librarians, teachers, parents, and other people who recognize the importance of reading in the lives of our teens. Many talk about how important it is for teens to have someone treat them like a person capable of making their own choices and decisions. Let's face it; if reading about bad things actually made them come true...we'd all be in really big trouble. *cough*the news*cough*
When parents come to me concerned that their daughter is reading a book called Crank, I reassure them that the message the book is sending is not pro-drugs. Sometimes, we like to read things that are outside of our experience just to get a taste for it. Wouldn't you rather read about eating disorders than have one? Another big point is that, unfortunately, a lot of teens don't have a life out of Leave It to Beaver. Sometimes it helps to read about someone who is going through a similar situation to your own. Sometimes it's easier to read about someone else's struggle, than it is to talk about your own.
Something the article didn't really address is how the (not really new) YA trend is creating a new generation of readers that otherwise may not have been reading at all. That is what makes me so excited to work with and promote YA lit: I want you to read. I want you to read a book that touches you and that you will carry with you the rest of your life. I want you to pass on your love of books to your children and your grandchildren. I want you to improve your spelling and grammar without knowing it. I want you to better retain all that stuff you learned at school over the summer because you participated in our Summer Reading Program. I want you to use a book to help you deal with a stressful situation. I want you to read about someone being transported to another world, and get lost in someone else's story instead of getting into trouble because you have nothing better to do. I want you to pine away for a boy (or girl or whatever you are into) in a book that no real life person could ever live up to rather than settle for someone who isn't good enough for you. I want you to get so wrapped up in a story that you can't wait to tell your best friend about it. I want you to learn about something or somewhere you may never have gotten to experience in another way. So, maybe Narnia isn't a real place...I'll still never forget my visit.
Abbey L.Tags: young adult fiction, teens, teen books