Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sometimes I even amaze myself...

I know there's been (again) a controversy of YA literature - or how "dark" literature might affect teen's behaviours and lead to inflicting injuries to oneself. I personally think that most teens have more sense than some give them credit for. On Deadline Dames, Jackie Kessler has posted about some of the recent discussion and there are some links up to explore some of the views on different sites. I left comment on her post, and then I reread if (AFTER I posted it of course) and was pleasantly surprised at how I explained my pov. Because even though I know that there are some girls that are drama queens just looking for strange actions to act, and reasons - I have faith in the vast majority of teens to have common sense. And even the easily influenced overly dramatic young teens will come to their senses. I doubt that NOT reading a certain book is going to keep them "safe" and at the same time I really feel strongly that there is value for teens to read in a book about a variety of situations that happen to good and bad people. So they don't feel like they might be the only ones going through some shit. So they see that yes, even if it's fiction - this fiction came out of a real person's mind, so therefore isn't it possible to come through or survive a painful teenhood, an awkward situation, a dark time in their lives....I could go on and on. I left the following comment and then I felt like I needed to get that comment posted here.

July 6, 2011 at 2:57 pm
Having once (so looonnnggg ago) been a teen, and of course KNOWING teens and even having my own teens….(as well as working with tweens and early teens) I can see a few sides to this thing. On one hand I remember how easy it is when you are 12 or 13ish to look at aberrant behavior (even if it was painful, dangerous, or downright STUPID) as glamorous and to try to emulate this in a way. I’ve seen 12 year old girls find out about one girl cutting herself, and then suddenly five or six girls in the level are doing the same thing. I believe though, that they would have done something at some point, and are just looking for catalysts. On the other hand – there is also a huge group of girls that are very level headed and wouldn’g be tempted.

I don’t think that reading about real issues is going to damage anyone. And if we all are honest about our teen years, teens can spot moralistic bullshit a mile away. Behavioural lessons or morals “disguised” as fiction are viewed with disdain or laughed at. So I think it’s important to write a good story. There is a whole lot that most teens are already dealing with, or witnessing their friends go through. I’m pretty sure that reading about a fictional character going through a rough time and growing or simply being able to survive is a good thing. They need to relate to all kinds of situations and characters. Teens need their feelings and intelligence to be validated more than they need their reading to be censored. Because in essence, trying to discourage writers from telling their full stories is just another form of censorship.

There is much more to the statements and discussions - at one point in the article (the one that's touched off the debate) a woman is voicing concern that she was looking for a book for a 13 year old and could find nothing but books about self mutilation, suicide, vampires, etc. I've been to bookstores also lately. I know there are a lot of books in the YA section that are the teen version of the urban fantasy and vampire books that a lot of us adults enjoy....but there are also quite a lot of books in the childrens section that deal with a huge variety of subjects. I also could see that there is a (at least in the stores that I shop at) section for fantasy/sci-fi in the YA area, and there is a general fiction area. Because the YA section isn't a whole store, there is a coupld aisles for each section. Then there is another section for the younger children and the books there range from infant/toddlers to middle grade. My point is, if she was that concerned about protecting or even guiding the reading choices for her daughter (or relative) then why was she shopping in the YA section? If I were going strictly by age group, then I would think that YA is for 15 to 19... so she should have looked around a bit more. And of course those dark and dramatic YA books are going to stand out - they sell.

There are all kinds of subject matters on tv and in books that are deep and intense...war movies, detective shows, NCI or whatever those corpse shows are called....books are just another medium for entertainment. Books, movies, music, magazines.....wide variety of subject matter and age groups are catered to. There is a choice - that's my point. But in trying to influence in anyway the product of a writer's mind, or the books that are published is censorship. I would hope that writers feel free to tell what ever story needs to come out of their brain at the moment - and not feel constrained by the expectations of limitations that a few people want to put down for every one.

Coming back to the issue of whether a book - whether the subject is dark fantasy, horror, teen crisis, date rape, depression - could be dangerous or save a soul. How can knowledge, however one gets it ever be anything but good? I know that not everthing is for everybody - but for the majority of kids...if they've come from parents that love them and try their best, then those kids are most likely going to make good choices and not let a fictional story completely change their moral compass. And if a kids who's been going through some difficult times happens to read about someone or a situation that he or she relates to, then at least they know they're not the only ones. For the drama queens that don't have enough of their own personality to stop them from acting out whatever they're reading - I'm pretty sure that they would use any excuse to attempt damned near anything. Could be a book or a movie or a song. But we shouldn't try to censor our output for a small section of teens who might not have all their marbles.

I might have rambled a bit, but I do have strong feelings about this type of things. I don't think that most teens get enough credit for their reasoning powers and brains and I don't think a lot of us older folks remember how practical we could be when we were young. Or how we would have hated to be told that we shouldn't read a certain book - or the other end....that a certain book shouldn't be written at all, to protect the "weak".

Oh -and don't forget that there is the teen that can simply read a story, any story just for the enjoyment of it.


  1. Don't forget the teens that will read books just because they are on the banned book list too :) Ban it and it will just get more popular. ^.~

    I agree Mardel. Teens need to read about other teens having issues. Knowing they are not alone is half the battle.


  2. You should go over to deadline dames and check out the comments. Lot of good points.

    oh man, this kind of stuff gets me RILED UP! (that's an old cowboy term, lol)