I was going to not write a post about the whole Wall Street Journal article that pretty much bashes and dismisses young adult literature, but I feel like I should at least say something about my stance. Especially when I see it's gotten more than 8,000 Facebook "likes" from people.
If you know me, you will know that I am distraught by the complete ignorance and lack of empathy Meghan Cox Gurdon displays in her article, titled "Darkness Too Visible." She basically claims that teens don't need to worry about the dark themes that are present in many young adult titles today.
Unfortunately, she is very wrong.
Let's just look at a few statistics. According to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), someone in the United States is sexually assaulted every 2 minutes. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide was the third leading cause of death in young adults ages 15 to 24 in 2007. According to Childhelp, a report of child abuse occurs every 10 seconds. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, 95% of those who have eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25.8.
Do we see something here?
Teens and tweens do not always have lives full of sunshine, rainbows and lollipops. I actually have yet to meet a teen whose life is that awesome. I remember what it was like when I was in middle and high school, and life sucked hardcore. I went through a period of pretty intense depression (though it was never diagnosed or anything), and I felt so alone and miserable, despite my loving family and decent economic standing. I did not get the idea to be miserable from books. Books helped me to escape, and to see that I wasn't alone.
This is the reason why I'm studying to be a librarian and hope to work with teens. I want to find books for them that will help them, that are relevant to their lives and are something they can hold on to. Now, don't read this to say I will give every teen that walks through the library doors books about rape and suicide. No. I will assess the situation and use my training to see what interests the teen, to see what they are looking for and what they want or need. Then I will do my best to find a book that is a match for them, and, if necessary (and if possible), one that fits with their parents' desires too (it can be done, believe it or not). The good news is, there are too many books to count in the world. There is one out there to fit nearly every situation.
It will just be my job to find them.