A recent Wall Street Journal article by Meghan Cox Gurdon has evoked a monsoon of articles and thoughts about the place, purpose and tone of Young Adult fiction. As someone who reads, researches about wants to write YA literature, I have been closely following the recent outpouring of support for "darker" YA. I don't know that I have time to write a full post on the subject. Instead, I'll link here to several articles--some written before the WSJ article, some written in response to it--that best portray the complexities of my current thoughts.
The first piece was written by Andrew Peterson, a Christian Singer/Songwriter who has completed the third book of a planned four in a YA series called the Wingfeather Saga. Here, he is addressing parents who want to see if his books are right for their children. He wrote this before the WSJ article, but I think his perspective on the purpose and tone of YA is very close to mine.
Here are two posts--(1) at Rabbitroom.com, before the article and (2) on her own website, after--by a literary agent named Rachelle Gardner. Some good stuff to ponder there.
A piece by Sherman Alexie, a well-regarded Native American author who won the National Book Award for his semi-autobiographical novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. You can find his piece here.
Finally, a quote from G.K. Chesteron, one of my favorites, who once wrote: "Fairy tales are more than true, not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten."
This is, for me, another way of saying what Alexie means when he writes: "And now I write books for teenagers because I vividly remember what it felt like to be a teen facing everyday and epic dangers. I don't write to protect them. It's far too late for that. I write to give them weapons--in the form of words and ideas--that will help them fight their monsters. I write in blood because I remember what it felt like to bleed." There are dragons out there, and much worse. I've seen the monsters the youth in my youth group have to face. I haven't read Alexie's book, or some of the others that the WSJ article references, but I hope that they do not simply end with the monsters and the blood. To honestly address the horrors young adults face is good. To leave them there, wallowing in that horror, is, I believe, irresponsible.
The movement challenging the WSJ article has taken up the rally cry YA SAVES. I agree with the sentiment, but not the full meaning. Certainly, YA has been the emergency raft that some youth cling to after being tossed about by life and by the sinful people in their lives. Yet, ultimately, I believe that YA is only a life raft, not the sailor in a boat who comes by to bring the drowning child back to shore. Ultimately, I believe that God saves. YA keeps us afloat, helps God to reach us when we're drowning. But by itself, YA (and all literature and media, for that matter) only keeps us afloat.
More soon. Thanks for keeping up with me, faithful readers.
P.S. What do you think about the blog redesign? Pretty shnazzy, right?