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Imagine the Light

Saturday, June 4, 2011
Any writer, reader, book blogger, etc, who has been on twitter this morning (Hong Kong time) has probably seen--and maybe raged against--the article published in the Wall Street Journal, Darkness Too Visible.

If you haven't gotten round to twitter yet, the article is about how YA's too dark these days. It's practically a rant. Hell (yes, I used "hell," that was totally too-dark of me), it's even got a "Books We can Recommend for Young Adult Readers" list compromising of "appropriate" books.

A lot YA books out there now contain rape, murder, profanity, drugs, and all those bad, bad things that should be sugarcoated with candies and lollipops then glazed with syrup before ever reaching the eyes of a child. I mean, good golly gosh! We have to protect the children! What would happen if--le gasp--they see the word... (here is where there is dramatic, stunned silence) "darn." The world would totally fall down and we'd get flattened to pieces--oops! That was a bit too gory and violent, sorry! We should totally not get flattened because then there'd be--horrors of horrors!--blood!

...Yeah, sure, we'd all turn into rapists and serial killers after reading YA then get high on drugs. Sorry, but I'm not buying it.

#YAsaves is trending right now. People left and right are saying how YA saved them--not turned them into psycho murderers! YA is something teens can relate to, something that gives them hope. While I'm not saying that all teens should go high on drugs, YA these days tackle realistic problems. Like anorexia. Depression. WSJ has no idea how much hope teens with "issues" get hope from reading YA. Or how teens without "issues" are made empathetic through YA novels.

The whole point is, YA reflects our current savage world--dramatized, maybe, but still. There are people in this world who love their siblings, there are drug addicts, and I'd say it's pretty damn impossible to find a teen who has never said "fuck" before. Hell! (there's the word again) I doubt you could find a seven-year-old who's never sworn in his or her life. If kids are going to be thrown into the real world at some point or the other, why not tell them about it early on? What is the point in reading about cute bunny rabbits making friends with Mr. Fox the kindhearted (who will totally not eat the rabbits) when it's a dog eat dog world?

Face it. Reality sucks. Which is why teens turn to YA. YA is a light in darkness. It shows that there's still hope, even in the worst situations, that things could always become better. Even though the darkness might be too visible, with YA, they'll always be able to imagine the light. And that will be what pulls them through their lives.

Imagine the Light


Light in the Darkness
As Hikari pointed out, the article laments over the lack of ‘acceptable’ reading material for children when this darker tone of writing is far more realistic and down-to-earth than many lighter works out there. Sure, we want to believe that life is happy and good, but do we really want to delude ourselves into thinking along such lines? Health classes everywhere are teaching children against sex and drugs, but do they really teach us not to do such things? No! It’s just what mom and dad and everyone else are saying. It is through experiencing the negative influences of such behavior through fiction that teens can really understand life as it is.

We shouldn’t pretend that there is no darkness in the world. The only way to recognize it and fight against it is to accept it and confront it. We learn through characters’ mistakes. We learn through their tragedy. It’s not like teens pick up a book with a dark cover just to make themselves more miserable. The reason why anyone would pick up a tragic book is because they want to learn about the narrator’s struggles. They want to cry for the narrator and pick up the cause.

Do you think that authors want to make teenagers miserable? Many popular YA authors today are stay-at-home moms with young children of their own. They emphasize with mothers everywhere. They write to teach teens how to deal with teen angst. They write to promote awareness of big issues. They write to help teens. No mother—or father—would write to hurt a child who might have been his or her own.

I feel ashamed for anyone who would suggest that the YA market is being corrupted. I’ve seen these authors’ blogs. Their tweets. They use their fame and fortune to help those in need. When Japan was hit by the nuclear reactor meltdown and tsunami, they auctioned off their books and labor to raise funds for the cause. They’re there giving advice to teens that email them and tell them how much their novels have helped them. Are these people who would corrupt the minds of teens? Brainwash them?

All they’re doing is showing us what some people are trying to cover. The dirty, brutal, and very real nature of life. And they’re trying to promote awareness so that suffering teens out there know that they aren’t alone. That someone is out there for them, trying to help them.

2 comments on "Imagine the Light"
  1. Well said by both of you! I couldn't believe the stupidity of the WSJ article when I read it.

    I'm only 23 but when I was 14 there were barely any YA novels of the callibre we see today but I wish there were. Had I been able to read some of them I might have known what to say and do when one of my closest friends started cutting and contemplated suicide instead of fumbling through it like I did and feeling completely overwelmed and lost.

    Also if a kid doesn't want to read this 'dark' YA fiction there are hundreds of books that deal with far easier subjects. No one is forcing them to read these novels, and Amy Freedman obviously didn't look too hard at the bookshelves if she couldn't find anything else.

  2. Thanks, Kayleigh. I'm really sorry that you and your friend had to go through that. I agree. There are a variety of books out on the market. Just because darker-themed books are becoming more prevalent doesn't mean that other books aren't dying out.



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