For a moment I was worried that YA had jumped the shark, and even old people were into it now.
I guess old people were tired of complaining about loud music and computers, so they decided to take a trip to the YA section at Barnes and Noble, and they were shocked – SHOCKED I TELL YOU – at what they found. The Wall Street Journal – that bastion of youth-focused culture and edginess – felt it was its duty to warn the world of the horror lurking in school libraries and bookshelves all across America. You can read the article here.
The crux of WSJ’s complaint is the same complaint that old people have had about young people since time immemorial. Why can’t you kids like good music/movies/books/clothes like they had back in my day?
The author – someone named Meghan Cox Gurdon – essentially argues that YA books these days are all about cutting and raping and incest. Letting kids read about such things normalizes them and makes kids more likely to cut and rape and incest. Or something.
Back in her day YA books were dark too, but they were dark in a more modest and appropriate way. Books used to only allude to drugs and sex and violence, and never came right out and used the F-word! The F-word! Can you imagine? Grandma Gurdon seems to think that kids should just pipe down about their issues, because if other kids find out about problems they might get problems too!
She even drags the beloved Judy Blume into her awful argument, insisting that if Publishers Weekly says that Lauren Myracle is “this generation’s Judy Blume” that the writers bear comparison. They don’t, and not just because Lauren Myracle’s writing is nowhere near the caliber of Judy Blume, but also because Judy Blume is this generation’s Judy Blume. Judy Blume is timeless. Lauren Myracle is meh.
Grandma Gurdon even pretends to be cool and relevant by suggesting a few appropriate selections for “Young Men” and “Young Women”. The best part about the suggested reading isn’t just that she thinks boys and girls would never like the same books, but also that 6 books are suggested for boys, but only 5 for girls. Because boys are better readers, right? Or perhaps girls shouldn’t be reading books anyway, they should be learning about more relevant things like housekeeping? Also, of the 11 books suggested – only 7 were published in this century.
The irony of suggesting that kids- but only the boys – read Farenheit 451 while at the same time suggesting that some books are dangerous seems to escape Grandma too.
Oh and the comments on the article are like the Circus of Your Elders. One commenter – whose user name is her husband’s name, but is adorably modern enough to sign her actual name – realizes that the reason that her YA novel has been rejected 12 times is that all the kids want to read about is bestiality, self-mutilation and gore. I think its probably more likely that her novel remains unpublished because she is clearly out of touch with what is popular in her chosen genre.
At the end of the day, it really dosen’t matter what the oldsters at the WSJ think about the state of YA literature. I’m pretty sure that the first time most teenagers heard about the WSJ was when this article started trending on Twitter today. All of this is pretty reassuring to this adult fan of YA literature. If the Generation Gap can survive global warming and the Baby Boom, maybe there’s hope for humanity after all.