Wednesday 6 July 2011

A Response to 'Darkness Too Visible': Why Darkness Doesn't Have to be Destructive Thing

On June 4th, 2011, children's book reviewer, Meghan Cox Gurdon penned an article in the Wall Street Journal, criticising the darker aspects in contemporary young adult fiction. The responses to this piece created a tweeting frenzy, with many defending the genre, citing the benefits that outweigh any perceived negative connotations.

Being as aspiring YA scribe, this is a subject very close to my heart so he's a little piece I've written about the article -

Earlier this month in the Wall Street Journal, Meghan Cox Gurdon derided the 'depravity' prevalent in young adult fiction, calling on parents to keep a watchful eye on what their impressionable offspring are reading.

Apparently, it is 'likely that books focusing on pathologies help normalize them and in the case of self-harm, may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might never have imagined such extreme measures.'

Mmm...Likely. That's a very vague word to be using in such an explosive context. She has no answer for the more logical argument for the benefits of young adult fiction - that it is a comfort to teens that experience trauma. That it can help them battle their own demons.

Cox Gurdon has a rather fanciful notion of teenagers - innocent children who need protecting, sheltering from such infectious acts. Shouldn't we be giving them a little more credit?

Most are intelligent and capable of making intelligent choices. She speaks for a generation without actually quoting any teenage opinion whatsoever.

But none of this matters. Because 'teenagers don't read young adult fiction at all.' Well, only three out of 18 private school students visiting a bookshop. One afternoon. Apparently.

Now there's a representative demographic sample. And if this is indeed the case, then that makes her whole argument irrelevant. At last! Something we can agree on.

Her recommendation for suitable teenage reading: Fahrenheit 451. A book about censorship. And I'm one hundred percent positive the irony of this choice will be completely lost on Ms. Cox Gurdon.

So, what do you think? Does she have a point? Do I have a point? Does my opinion even matter, being a non-teenage person and not exactly the target market for these books. Please comment...

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