Tuesday, June 7, 2011

My Two Cents...

I am not a teenager or young adult, I'm 29, but I am an avid reader of young adult fiction.  And I most likely always will be.  It's what I love to read.  It's what I feel comfortable reading.  I read to escape real life for a little while.  I want it to be fun, not a chore.  I do read some books that are not YA, but they are always few and far between.  Nothing against them, I just enjoy YA more.  People laugh when I tell them what I like to read.  But what they don't understand is it's not a reading level, it's the content.  I don't want to read a full blown sex scene.  It's just not me.  I don't want to have to stop every few pages and think "what's going on?"  I read for fun.  I don't want to have to pick up a dictionary every other word.  That's too much work.  I want to sit back, get lost in a story, and enjoy it.
I'm going to say I didn't like what I read in the WSJ article about young adult books (which I'm not going to link.  It's out there to find and most of you have already read it).  I do want to give my opinion, not so much on the article, but on the topic.  Mostly on what's out there and about censorship and who should decide what's suitable or not.
I do feel the mother of the teen age daughter said a good thing.  Direct quote from the article: "she felt, 'nothing, not a thing, that I could imagine giving my daughter.'"  I wholeheartedly believe that parents are the only ones who should decide what their child should or should not read.  Only they know what they can handle at their age.  What's out there might not be suitable for her thirteen-year-old, but that doesn't mean it's not good for all teens or young adults.  In my opinion, yes, most of the stuff out there is not suitable for the majority of thirteen-year-olds.  I'm sure there are very few that are prepared to read it.  Every child is different in what they can and cannot handle.
For instance, my father wouldn't let me read Stephen King until I turned eighteen.  Did I disagree with this?  Heck yes I did!  I was a teenager.  All of my friends were reading it.  I even got busted hiding one under my bed that a friend lent me (no, my parents didn't search my room.  We had a dog who liked to sleep under beds.  When she got older, she grew bigger and would get stuck.  My dad was getting her out when he found it.)  Should I have been reading these books?  No.  And my father knew it (although I've never told him this).  He would tell me the books are far worse than the movies (and I'd only seen the TV edited versions) and he knew that I wouldn't handle that well.  Parents know their children.  I have yet to read a Stephen King novel because now that I'm older, I know I don't need to read them.  I know it's not a story I will enjoy or benefit from.
Now as far as the writer of the article to say there is nothing out there?  That everything is too dark?  Then people aren't looking hard enough.  B&N is a company trying to make money, just like any other.  They have to make a profit, so yes, they are going to market what sells.  That doesn't mean that's it, take it or leave it.  Look harder.  Try the children/middle-grade section.  Look at used books stores.  Order on-line.  But there is something out there for everyone to read.  If not in the current market, go back a few years.  It's there.
And to me, YA should be diverse.  It needs to be.  It needs to show that everyone is different, and that it's okay to be different.  From books about the trials of babysitting to books about torture and everything in between.  The article prompted people to voice their opinion and in doing so the hashtag #YASaves was created.  Take a look.  It will move you to tears.  It did me.  

While books were just something to keep me company growing up, they were changing lives for others.  I had never thought about it before, but after reading post after post about how a book helped someone realize they weren't alone in their problems, how they could make a change for the better, I couldn't agree more than YA Saves.  If a girl needs to read about another girl cutting to help her understand, make it available.  If a boy needs to read about a boy getting tortured for a number of reasons to realize bullying is not right, make it available.  There are countless examples I can give, but if one person thought it up long enough to put in a book, I guarantee someone else is living it.  It should be the message that counts.  The rest is just entertainment.  A way to get kids to read, make it fun and interesting.  If it takes a sparkly vampire to get teenagers reading again, why not make it available?  If it takes a group of chosen kids to fight to the death to learn about perseverance and standing up for what you believe in, why not make it available?  Kids are smart.  They know vampires don't exist.  They know we don't live in a post-apocalyptic world where killing is a sport.  They will get the message.  

In the end, I can't imaging reading books like these when I was a teen (10-16 years ago), but I would have loved to.  There just wasn't a market for them then.  

To sum it up:
Parents should be the ones to judge what their children read.  Maybe read it for themselves and talk about it.
Kids are smart.  They will figure it out the difference between what's real and what's not.  
And just because YA Saves is a trendy twitter topic, doesn't mean it's not true.


Misty Provencher said...

Great post! You make a lot of excellent points, Mandie- especially your last line. Loved that.

Ashley Graham said...

I agree. I also wish YA had seemed more readily available when I was a teen or that I would've read more YA instead of primarily adult. OR that the types of YA books offered, period, had been more diverse.

To sugarcoat the kinds of problems teens deal with today -- including bullying, eating disorders and teen pregnancy -- is like pretending those problems aren't as severe as they actually are. Being a teen isn't all unicorns and rainbows and pink, frilly flowers -- it's hard, messy, and, sometimes, even a little gruesome. To ignore that simple fact, even in writing, is ignorant.

Well said, Mandie.

Mandie Baxter said...

Thanks ladies! I know the article didn't paint YA in a positive light, but I really hope all of the tweets, blog posts, and articles that have surfaced since then helps. Children need to know it's not all unicorns and rainbows. Life is hard, but there is always a positive way out.

Anonymous said...

Amen girl!

We Heart YA said...

Wonderful post! Here's a point that we haven't seen often, but it's true for us, and countless other people we bet:

"While books were just something to keep me company growing up, they were changing lives for others. I had never thought about it before, but after reading post after post about how a book helped someone realize they weren't alone in their problems, how they could make a change for the better, I couldn't agree more than YA Saves."

Well said!

Angela V. Cook said...

Great post! :o) When I was a teen, I was stuck with "Sweet Valley High" books, where the biggest conflict was Jessica's boyfriend getting stolen by her BFF (or something like that). I love the array of books available now-a-days. With all the crap that's in video games and on TV, parents are worried about books?!?!? If your teen is staying home and reading a book on a Saturday night, as opposed to going to some kegger at a local university frat house, the parents should be thanking their lucky stars.

Mandie Baxter said...

Thanks so much We Heart YA!

OMG Angela! I forgot about SVH! I read those too. And I agree about videogames/tv/movies. At least with a book they are using their imagination & not out getting in trouble.

Katelyn said...

Oh my goodness! Is this a real, post from the one and only Mandie Baxter??? I am so glad that I stopped by your blog to read this post. Yes, I agree 100%. Parents should be the ones to decide. They know their own children, they know the maturity levels of their children, and most importantly they know what their children can handle. Just because there are books out there that deal with cutting, bullying, suicide, etc. does not mean that EVERY SINGLE BOOK is consumed by a "dark" topic. You stated it quite nicely, just look harder. Parents will find books suitable for their children's needs.

Mandie Baxter said...

Haha...thanks Katelyn! I know I need to post on here regularly! I am working on it. :) I liked your post on this topic too!

Christa said...

Yes to this. You are right 100%. Also, YA is a very LARGE genre...I'm surprised this woman didn't look through some of the MG stuff which is absolutely Awesome, especially for a 13 year old.

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