Monday, 6 June 2011

WSJ, I disagree.

I wasn't going to do this. Seriously, I wasn't.

So, as you should know by now (really, it's everywhere!) the Wall Street Journal published an "article" on Saturday that provoked some pretty strong reactions from YA readers. I won't recap the article just because I think it's a lot better if you and read it for yourself. Basically though, the article in question is entitled Darkness Too Visible: Contemporary fiction for teens is rife with explicit abuse, violence and depravity. Why is this considered a good idea? I think that says it all.
I was talking to a friend yesterday on Facebook and I shared the link with her. She shared her opinion on it with me and I just wanted (with her permission, of course) to post it for your viewing enjoyment. Here we go:
I wonder if the writer of that realized how ridiculous it was while they were writing it. I mean, I'll admit; the only book I've read that they mentioned was "The Hunger Games," but still. These books weren't written to scar readers; they were written to educate people on how some of this really happens and how they can try to better it or help someone who is going through it. It's not as if someone who writes a book about someone cutting is trying to make readers cut themselves; they write it to show the emotional suffering a person is going through and how people around them can help, and/or maybe even prevent this kind of stuff from happening.
Novels are written to enrich a person's mind, and these novels were written to show this kind of stuff happens in society. And what's more is that the older generation is constantly complaining about how the younger generation doesn't read books enough anymore. If it gets this kind of reaction to books, what are we supposed to do? Ignore that these kinds of things happen to people? Society isn't picture perfect and never will be. We can try to help it as much as we can, but we need to educate ourselves on these issues. And how else are we going to do that without reading? The article said itself, there's some "ghastly stuff" on the Internet.

Another thing; this is supposed to count as journalism? Journalism is supposed to be written from an unbiased perspective - this seemed pretty biased to me.

That's it. Now comes my part. 


Okay, first of all, this woman couldn't find anything but "vampires and suicide and self-mutilation" on the shelves? Really. You cannot expect me to believe that this bookstore didn't stock any light contemporary suited for a thirteen-year-old. If that's what you want your children reading, great! Give them Meg Cabot or Ally Carter - both wonderful authors with wonderful books.

This whole argument about how things in the past were so much better than they are now because books like ones today didn't exist makes no sense to me. People were always being murdered and raped, teenagers always suffered from depression and anxiety and eating disorders. The only thing that has changed is that now these people have more means of support and comfort - by this, of course, I mean novels. 
Books that go into the darker topics help people every day by showing them that they are not alone in their struggles and that maybe, someday, everything will be okay. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and we can rise above the challenges we face - however big or small.

I am a teenager. That does not mean I am ignorant or impressionable enough to kill someone because the main character in a book is a murderer.

I am young. I can think intelligently and formulate my own opinions and viewpoints. Please don't talk down to me like I don't understand.

This whole article just felt so condescending to me. Let's not disregard the value of the books that were mentioned.

The real thing (one of them, anyways) that gets to me though, is the bundle of comments made against Scars by Cheryl Rainfield. Please do not go against this book - you have no idea how powerful it was to me when I first read it. Not because I'd been through anything remotely similar - my life is wonderful and I am so, so lucky to have the family I do - but because that's the kind of novel it is. It's the book that makes you step outside your sheltered little bubble and think and want to do something. It was my first venture into novels like that and I am so glad I decided to pick it up.

Has the author of this article done any research at all? I was shocked and angry to read what she had to say about this book because it isn't some made-up nonsense designed to haunt readers' every waking moment. It is all based on the suffering Cheryl Rainfield went through as a child and teenager. That "horribly scarred forearm" on the cover belongs to the author. Obviously, she has not written this book to "trigger a sufferer's relapse." These books are written for the complete opposite!
The thing is that the world isn't sunshine and daisies. Is it so ridiculous to have books focusing on rape when 1 in 4 women in North America are sexually assaulted sometime in their life? 17% of girls under 16 have experienced some form of incest. 83% of disable women are sexually assaulted.* These statistics are horrible and scary but true. Isn't it important that these people have as many ways of possible overcoming these struggles as possible? I think so.

In regards to banning books, I get it. People want to protect children and shield them from the books that can terrify and harm them. I have no problem with that! Do it for your children. Sit down with your children and tell your children what they can and cannot read. Have an open discussion about it! Don't tell other people's kids what to read and what not to read though. You can parent your children, and your next-door-neighbour can parent theirs.

Oh, and the suggested reads on the sidebar - WHY IS THAT DIVIDED BY GENDER? I feel like I've stepped into a time machine.  


The statistics used in this post were found on this website.
* The last two stats are for women in Canada.


  1. Great post. As I have stated on other blogs the past few days...yes, I agree that not all YA books are suitable for all YA readers. But not all movies or tv or music is suitable for younger viewers or listeners either. We as a society have to wake up and realize that things ARE different today than they were even one generation ago. One of the key issues...for me a severe lack of parenting today. There needs to be more open communication. Read and talk to your kids. Know what your kids are sensitive to and discuss things with them as need be. Don't leave them hanging. Nurture your kids and encourage them, so that they can make smart choices and think for themselves. Although, I don't agree with the article? I am happy to see all the discussion it has created! :0)

  2. Seriously- LOVE this dude. You said it perfectly!

  3. Tell em again Sonia! Like Tracy said, society needs to realize that things are different now. No one can tell anyone else what to read. A book that may be unsuitable for one person, can be completely fine for another. And no matter what anyone says, we readers will NEVER stop reading over an article like this.


  4. Tracy: Those were some really great points! I definitely agree that their isn't enough open discussion a lot of the times today between parents and their children. Thanks! :)

    Ashley: Haha, thanks! I feel like I've read so many great responses to this in the past couple of days, too.

    Honey: LOL, PREACH IT, SISTER. Even banned books - they do realize people still read them, right? As long as the books are available in some way, people will read them.

  5. I think there are some interesting points made the in article. I think its interesting that these books are marketed as YA when so many people, including myself (I'm 26), who read them aren't actually teens. I do think that there are some books marketed as YA that aren't appropriate for a 13-year-old. But there are definitely others that are. I can see my future self wanting my children to be a little older before they read certain books, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be published in the first place.

  6. That's true as well. The problem is that so many books are just thrown under the 'YA' category which really is a broad spectrum. I mean, do I think all people aged 13+ should read books with the same maturity level? No, not necessarily. It's like you said in your last line though: they shouldn't just not be written and published. Thanks for your comment! :)