Let’s see if I can at least round up some of the continuing Gurdon / Wall Street Journal / YA Saves posts. Honestly, when I first read Gurdon’s second piece (opinion, My ‘Reprehensible’ Take on YA Literature) I wasn’t even going to link to it because a, I assumed if you’d read the first, you’d be aware of the second and b, it’s a rehash of the first article (Darkness Too Visible) and c, at this point there is way too much shouting and no listening (you’re not listening to me! that’s not what I said! you’re not listening to me! that’s not what I heard!, repeat, repeat, repeat.) There’s also way too much in the comments of both WSJ articles that takes Gurdon’s original thesis and concludes, “all YA is badly written, sucks, and the only things teens should read are classics.”
But, there is some stuff out there that falls under new, not rehash.
So, in no order of importance whatsoever:
Radio programs that addressed this, on one way or another:
WHYY (Philadelphia Public Radio), Is Young Adult Fiction Too Dark? 07/06/11
Laurel Snyder, in The Recent Fracas, . . . models how discussions about these things do not have to be overly personal in attack mode. I agree with her that “dark” is never defined, which is half the problem: “Imprecise language drives me bonkers. What the hell do we mean by “dark?” What do we think we’re doing lumping the book with serious “issues” in it alongside a dystopian landscape full of glowing were-monkeys? Really, people? REALLY? I find this hugely upsetting. Books you buy for a kid who has just lost a parent to cancer are “dark” and vampire novels are “dark” and Hunger Games is “dark” and cutting is dark and what about Vonnegut? Is he dark?” Another hugely important point that too many booksellers and librarians need to listen to: “Not unrelated, this conversation is about so-called gatekeepers. Librarians and bookstore people most of all. If a person walks into a bookstore, these are the people who will lead them through the labyrinth of vampires and zombies. Somewhere on a low shelf, there is the RIGHT book for every child, in any bookstore or library. EVERY bookstore or library. If we don’t support these venerable institutions, who on earth is going to lead you through the maze? You think a website can really help you find just the book you want, for that kid who isn’t just reading the hot new thing? No, ma’am. Let’s see a radio show about how the overwhelming trends are supported in great part by the size of our “stores” and a devaluation of the people we trust to help us find the books we so badly need.” This devaluation of what a librarian does when it comes to readers advisory, at every level from reading reviews to collection development to weeding to booklists to displays to cataloging to bookselling, frightens me. I disagree with some of the other things Snyder says, but sorry, ran out of room!
Booksellers and librarians and reviewers — we’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t. Lisa Bonchek Adams reposted a 2010 post about interactions between children and booksellers (but this could also apply to librarians): “My favorite thing to do is bring the older children there and let them chat with a bookseller, telling what they’ve just read and whether they liked it or not. The clerks then can make suggestions about what the kids might like to buy/read next. When we walked in it was apparent my favorite person was not there to help us. Another woman offered, and off we went to the back room. “What have you just read that you liked?” she asked my 11 year-old daughter. “Elsewhere,” (by Gabrielle Zevin) she answered. The woman immediately snapped, “That’s too old for you. It has death in it,” she said. She looked at me quizzically, silently chastising me for my daughter’s book choice.” As can be seen from some of the reactions to Gurdon, some parents would be overjoyed with encountering such a bookseller; as is obvious from Adams post, others, not so much. See the tightrope we have to walk! Personally? I find the bookseller’s reaction wrong at every level.
I know there are other good posts out there — please, share and link to them in the comments!
Edited to add: The Monsters In Us All: In Defense of YA Literature by Ilsa J. Blick, at Hunger Mountain: “And that is the task of adolescence, too: to break out, break free, carve out a life, change the world. Home is a place to eventually leave; a parent’s job is to become obsolete, which is not the same as being forgotten, mind you. Parents, not books, shape and model behaviors. As Ms. Cox Gurdon correctly points out, adults’ “meta”-messages are very powerful. No book can wound so completely or cut as deeply as a parent’s single, thoughtless remark. No one but a parent retains that kind of power—and it is for life.”