This weekend The Wall Street Journal published an article about the increasingly dark content of YA fiction. The author, Meghan Cox Gurdon, came up on the pro side of parental censorship. This has sparked a lot of criticism in the literary world. In the WSJ article, Gurdon states,
If books show us the world, teen fiction can be like a hall of fun-house mirrors, constantly reflecting back hideously distorted portrayals of what life is. There are of course exceptions, but a careless young reader–or one who seeks out depravity–will find himself surrounded by images not of joy or beauty but of damage, brutality and losses of the most horrendous kinds.
Since when is the world nothing but joy and beauty? That would be great, but that’s just not how it is. The article goes on to cite some of the YA fiction that contains “distorted portrayals of what life is.” It even cites The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins as one of the Top 10 most frequently challenged books of 2010 according to the American Library Association. The WSJ article ends with the conclusion that
No family is obliged to acquiesce when publishers use the vehicle of fundemental free-expression principles to try to bulldoze coarseness or misery into their children’s lives.
Now, on that statement alone, I agree. Parents should be allowed to have a say in what their children read. But that’s the extent of my agreement.
On the other side of the argument is Linda Holmes, who wrote an article for the blog Monkey See on NPR.org. Holmes argues
Surrounding them with books full of joy and beauty is fine, but confining their reading to those things because we are so afraid that they cannot tolerate being exposed to the things they are already so often exposed to does them a terrible disservice.
Holmes also brings up a valid point, stating
Even the things we read for school were things like Animal Farm and Lord of the Flies and even that horrible thing in Johnny Tremain about being burned by molten metal OW OW OW. If we’re speaking thematically, The Hunger Games has nothing on Lord of the Flies.
English classes do introduce teenagers to some pretty tough subjects; kids attacking each other on an island, young lovers committing suicide rather than being apart, a dude killing his dad and having sex with his mom without knowing it (Oedipus, anyone?). But just because teenagers are exposed to something doesn’t mean it will make them want to hurt someone or commit suicide.
This debate over the content of YA fiction isn’t going away. So what do you think? Is young adult fiction too adult?