Monday, January 9, 2012

Article on YA lit

So a writer friend of mine sent me this article.  While I think the author really wants children to read and has good intentions, his all-or-nothing attitude is a bit extreme.

He talks about dumbing down literature and YA being too insipid to read.  I think for him, maybe (but not really), because he states that the reason for reading is to elevate.  For me, that is not why I read; I read to get lost in a story.  But I also think YA can still elevate; he obviously hasn't read the books about sacrifice, or the values/challenges of friendship and loyalty, or suicide, whatever.  There are tons of YA books that focus on the hardships in life and don't dumb anything down.  (I've never read these books but two that come to mind are Speak and 13 Reasons Why).  I think if young adults are reading, that's pretty much all we can ask for.  Take his example, about the kids in Brooklyn reading Walter Dean Myers.  If they didn't read him, they probably wouldn't read anything.  So how is reading WDM a bad thing?  (I've never read any WDM, but I still think reading is better than not reading).  Yes, it would be great for young adults to read the classics (they are called classics for a reason) but that's not always an option, and not all kids would understand them anyways.

He also talks about literature not just being words, but power, and a power that can be the readers' and the power to save.  I think all these things can be (and are) in YA books.  Maybe he has only read hearts and flowers books.  But even in hearts and flowers books, I think readers can gain insight from them (especially since I intend my next book to be a "hearts and flowers" type book); for example, taking a risk can lead to something good, (even if that risk happens to be on romance) or breaking out of your comfort zone.  These are all situations that happen in YA, but still need to be learned.

I think he's too black and white in his comments, and maybe even a little bit elitist about reading in general.  What do you guys think?


  1. I skimmed the article, and my first impressions matched up with your summary. Here's what I immediately thought. I love the classics as much as anyone, but the writing and language is from a style and time long gone. It's more difficult to read, which makes it less accessible. And that's pretty much the only difference. The themes and, usually, the situations classic literature presents are largely the same. I think that if the only thing "dumbing down" contemporary YA is that it's NOT old...well, then there's no help for it. And I don't want it to change.

  2. Hi Leigh Ann - I absolutely agree! If young adults can't read and understand them, then how are they helpful? YA definitely makes those themes more accessible, which we should be praising, not belittling.

    Thanks for stopping by! I love your blog; it's so witty and encouraging. It's great to see someone having the same experiences at the same time as I am!