A recent article in the Wall Street Journal has gotten quite a bit of attention. In the article, Meghan Cox Gurdon laments that Young Adult fiction has, essentially, gotten too real, too dark with stories that explore complex, difficult themes that Gurdon argues are too much for young adults. She writes:
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.
Many people, both Young Adult writers and writers from other genres have been swift and passionate in taking Gurdon to task for her rather narrow argument and the shallow way she criticizes Young Adult literature. Individuals also took to Twitter, as we are wont to do these days using the hashtag #yasaves, as a means of discussing how Young Adult literature was more than just literature but also some kind of salvation. Most of the counterarguments to Gurdon’s perspective speak to the difficulty of adolescence and how it is good for young people to see a multitude of realities reflected by the literature they read. As one of many, many people who relied heavily on books as a coping mechanism when I was younger, I was glad to see such a resounding response to Gurdon’s polemic. What really inspired this level of response though, might well be the condescending tone throughout Gurdon’s article. Any valid points she makes are difficult to appreciate because she’s so busy casting aspersions on an entire genre by discussing a small selection of books that reflect the “depravity,” that so troubles her.