Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Kerfuffle! Kerfuffle!

Much has been said about this article, which bemoans the darkness that has taken over the YA genre. The article has some grounding in truth, but it's a bit exaggerated, both in the idea that the trend is new and in the claim that there's nothing out there for teens who would rather read something happier. I get those requests all the time around the YA shelves, along with nephew-who-just-lost-his-mom-and-could-really-use-a-good-laugh requests. I point those customers toward My Most Excellent Year. I point them toward John Green's work, with the caveat that although there's more to it than sadness, Looking for Alaska might be best saved for another day. I point them toward graphica and semi-graphica like Smile and The Accidental Genius of Weasel High.

But there's a lot to be said for escapism to the dark side. Teens know it, and adults seem to know it, too. When I see a solo adult looking a little lost in the YA section, maybe a little embarrassed to be there, I almost know before asking that he or she seeks The Hunger Games. (Twilight's been out long enough that most customers seem to know where to find it, but it too brings more than its share of adult readers our way.)

And of course, dark YA doesn't just exist for escapism. Rape and suicide and other "dark, dark stuff" does happen to teens and to people who are close to teens, and reading a story from a peer's point of view about a difficult topic is a safe way to learn about it, contemplate it, and feel less alone. (What constitutes "dark," anyway? Are sex and sexuality dark?) As the response campaign says so earnestly, YA saves.

In the past year, we've had major, somewhat manufactured controversies about picture books and YA novels. Is middle-grade next?

No one tell the press how Charlotte's Web ends.


  1. Don't you just love how the books recommended in the WSJ article were broken down by gender?

  2. That's too dark for me to contemplate.