Postcard For Reader + TIME

Thoughts On: WSJ Article, YA Saves, and The YA Genre

I was not originally going to write about this article.

I Tweeted about it; I've read every other blog post on the Internet about it; I'm excited to see Maureen Johnson & Libba Bray's rebuttal to it.

But I never planned on writing on it. And then I spent my morning reading about how YA saved Julie from committing suicide and about how Pam suffered through so much without the YA that she loves now and I just wanted to say a few things.

Don't you dare make teenagers feel less than they are.
Teenager is not a synonym for stupid, dumb, foolish, gullible, idiotic, moronic, senseless or trivial. It is a not a synonym for child or toddler or somebody who has not yet experienced anything and needs to constantly be led by the hand.

Teenager is a synonym for young adult. Look at the two words: young adult. We are still considered some form of adult. Are most of us older than 18? No. Do we go out in the 'real world' and have 'real jobs' and do 'real people things'? No.

But we sure deal with real life experiences. For people like me, we help our friends out when they get low. We don't have bad lives - we have our ups and downs, but as far as we can tell, we're average. Ups and downs is 'real life experience.'

And then there's teenagers who deal with 'real life experiences' that nobody wants to deal with. Rape. Abuse. Mental and physical disorders. Contemplation of suicide.

And they either drown or come through it, and those who come through it have something to help them - friends, or in some cases, the friends they find in books.

But if you tell me teenagers can't handle 'real things' - because real things are dark and gritty and yes, they're in books, but they're in life so much more - I will challenge you. I will yell and scream until you get it in your thick skull that teenagers are not stupid, or gullible, or oblivious to the world. Yes, we are young, but we are brave and smart and accepting and willing to take on the risks of the real world which is far more than I can say for any adult who dares try to tell me otherwise.

What have you been reading, WSJ? Because it sure isn't young adult.
I'm sorry, WSJ. Before I go into a well executed mini rant about my hatred of you and my love of young adult and everything it stands for, let me quote you. I, unlike some things, like to get my facts straight before I begin.

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.

I highly recommend everybody read this offensive and incorrect article before I continue, as I can't find it in my heart to taint this blog post with more quotes.

Before I go into their attack on the darker aspects of young adult fiction, I have to laugh, because they classify all of YA into that category. I can turn around and pull at least three books off my shelves that don't tackle a darker theme. In fact, I will.

Books I yanked: Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer; Secondhand Charm by Julie Berry; How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend by Gary Ghislain

All three are YA and none of these are dark books. To that parent that walked into the ya section: Are you blind? Or just oblivious!? There are so many fluffy and happy books. There are fantasy filled books that skim on the tale of good versus evil and focus more on the fun of magic; there are contemporaries that are all about falling into some fluffy romance; the science fiction that literally just takes you to another planet with no worries about all that "dark evil stuff" happening on Earth.

And for that dark, gritty, fantastic realistic fiction you talk about? To counteract the quote above, I shall use an example that I'm sure everybody can live with: one Mr. Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.

"Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one remembers to turn on the light."

I will not deny that YA has it's dark moments. But in those dark tales of rape and loss and suicide and everything that you see in the news, there is a story. There are happy moments and hopeful moments and the lesson that you can get out of it okay. They tell you not to give in to those darker temptations because not all hope is lost. Hope will never be lost.

And to even claim that these books try to normalize or aid in people who cut or commit suicide or starve themselves makes me rage, people. They show what happens if you should continue. They give reasons to stop. They offer support, something to lean on, when times get rough and you feel like you need to.

And I've seen it happen.

YA Saves. And nobody can ever tell me otherwise.
#YAsaves is trending worldwide on Twitter. Come contribute your story.

This is a picture of my friend Becky.

We've been best friends for a very long time now. We met in ninth grade and managed to survive all of high school together; I just saw her and hung out with her at Barnes and Noble last week. Gorgeous girl, right?

She began starving herself during high school. Textbook anorexic case. Super skinny, never ate at thing. Began to lose some of her hair. Hormones all out of whack.

We all nearly lost her. Nothing we did could pull her out of this never ending downward spiral she was in. I would come into school every day and tough my best friend's wrists as they got skinnier; I would watch her absently pick at grapes and never really eat a meal; I listened to her talk about how she kept finding hair on her pillow and how she didn't know what to do anymore.

I owe Laurie Halse Anderson my best friend's life.

I don't know if she started to get better without it and it helped or if this is what triggered getting better. All I know is that the moment that she read Wintergirls, she knew she couldn't end up like the girls in the book. She did not - could not - be a Wintergirl. She didn't want to die. She didn't want to end up like those girls did.

One book. That was all it took to help save her life.

So don't you dare tell me that dark YA is for aiding people. YA saves lives. My best friend proves that every day.

Me crying and thanking Laurie when
I met her at BEA in 2010

We are YA.
Young adult is brilliant. It can be terrifying and dark and gritty and fantastic and wonderful and full of hope. It shows the darkest of the dark while letting us know that there will always be light.

Just like our lives.

We are the books we read. To attack them is to attack us.

And I will not have it. Not from WSJ, not from book banners, not from anybody who dares tell me I can't read something or that my friends can't read something or that some stranger in some state I've never met can't read something.

And if you dare tell me I can't read something like Living Dead Girl or Wintergirls or Stay or any of the books mentioned in that senseless WSJ article, I will tell you not to see a movie or watch the news or even go out into the world.

I'll stick with the books that teach me and give me hope.

You can keep sticking your head in the sand.

thoughts on, and more:

Thoughts On: WSJ Article, YA Saves, and The YA Genre + TIME