Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Reality of YA (Saves)

If you didn't know, the Wall Street Journal published an article demonizing YA literature. In response, the YA community and supporters surged Twitter taking it to the top of trending topics and voice their opinions that #YASaves.

It is hard to deny the point that a lot of YA lit does cover dark material but the point is that these are still issues that teens face in these days.

In Jackie Morse Kessler's gruesome but inventive 2011 take on a girl's struggle with self-injury, "Rage," teenage Missy's secret cutting turns nightmarish after she is the victim of a sadistic sexual prank. "She had sliced her arms to ribbons, but the badness remained, staining her insides like cancer. She had gouged her belly until it was a mess of meat and blood, but she still couldn't breathe." Missy survives, but only after a stint as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. - WSJ article

These issue books  reach out to children and teens who may feel that they don't have another way; they provide a sense of hope and support that it is possible to overcome the agony, the strife, the hatred. Just because they encompass a story in dazzling tales of sparkling vampires or worlds ravaged by war doesn't mean that the message isn't the same: You are not alone.

When you face such dark and difficult times, it seems that where you turn to for help you hear only what they think it is you want to hear and not the truth; not what helps and that is what YA provides for teens who are reading. YA faces a lot of the issues the rest of the world refuses to address or acknowledge; Libba Bray's words ring true:

I genuinely believe that these articles are hurtful, that they goad banners & keep much-needed books out of the hands of the teens who should be reading them. Books are, at their heart, dangerous. Yes, dangerous. Because they challenge us: our prejudices, our blind spots. They open us to new ideas, new ways of seeing. They make us hurt in all the right ways. They can push down the barricades of “them” & widen the circle of “us” And when one feels alone–say, because of a terrible burden of a secret, something that creates pain and isolation, books can heal, connect That’s what good books do. That’s what hard books do. And we need them in the world. -- Series of tweets from Libba Bray

I cannot wait to read Rage because I've been there. I was that teenager and someone else, a girl 17 close to my heart, is there now. These books are more than that; they're great stories that encourage teens to continue reading to continue reaching out. YA helped propel me into a world of reading with its vivid descriptions and characters I could relate to and things that existed only in my happy place like magic. Whether it is the mean girls in high school, GLBT, or eating disorders, YA reaches out and helps, but it lets you escape for just a minute and that minute may be all you need to save your life.

Do you think we just make this stuff up? The darkest parts of my books came directly from my teenage life. - Tweet from Holly Black to WSJ

But if you walk into a bookstore and see only negativity lurching out at you from every angle in the YA section, you should really open your eyes because there is so much more to YA lit than a dark reality...did I mention they were still great stories?

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