Sunday, June 5, 2011

The WSJ, "Age Appropriate" Censorship, and #Yasaves

I don't know if you're all already on Twitter...if you are than I am sure you've already seen the Wall Street Journal controversy and it's followup responses under the Twitter hastag, #Yasaves.

If not, then here's the condensed version...
Yesterday, the WSJ debuted an opinion article titled, "Darkness Too Visible" by Megan Cox Gurden. (Here's the link.) Basically, she trashes all YA as being too dark, too real to the point that there are no "age appropriate" books for teens anymore.

Say what?

I'm sorry, but obviously the author and the woman whose situation she quotes are not actually LOOKING at the YA books before they trash them. YA is an age group...not a genre. Which means...huh...there are about a hundred different types of YA books. That means that there IS a book out there for every teen reader. I swear!

As a YA Librarian, the most important part of my job is to connect the teen readers (and the adults now that are branching into YA :P) to the right book. That is what I am here for...there are so many choices that it can sometimes be difficult for a reader to determine what's right for them. (This was actually my first response to the article - ummm...instead of just wandering the bookshelves at a bookstore, you could talk to a Librarian to get some recommendations...)

The reason that Reader's Advisory is such a huge part of my job? Because every reader is different. Their needs are different, their tastes are different, their reading levels are different... It's my job to figure out how to mesh all of these factors together to come up with the right book.

For some, it's a book that is sweet and funny. Full of dreams, funny situations, and not too much beyond a gentle kiss... This reader might love SUITE SCARLETT by Maureen Johnson or SLEEPAWAY GIRLS by Jen Calonita.

For others, it's a science fiction book that features a male character...This reader might love ENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card or EPIC by Connor Kostick.

For others, it's what we might term a "problem book," something dealing with abuse, because they've lived through it or someone they know has had to deal with it... For this reader it might be a book like THE RULES OF SURVIVAL by Nancy Werlin or A CHILD CALLED IT by Dave Pelzer.

Each teen needs a different book. It may be because they know someone dealing with some issue. It may be a safe way for them to explore a life issue without actual experimentation. It may be that it was recommended by a friend. It may be that they are dealing with something they don't want to talk about. For whatever reason, it is up to me and other Librarians and book sellers to provide them with THAT book.

YA books have exploded in the last few years. There is more choice available than ever...and yes, a lot of these books reflect the life that teens are facing now. It is only adults who bury their heads in the sand that cannot acknowledge that even if THEIR TEEN does not need or want to read a specific book, that it will not be the perfect fit for someone else's teen.

For every happy teen living in a suburban house with the perfect life, there is at least one teen living on the street, or heck even in the suburban house next door that maybe has a life that is reflected in these new DARK YA books. They need them.

The overall point is that YA covers all gamuts. It covers all genres. It covers LIFE. There are light books, there are dark books, there are fantasy titles, and realistic fiction. There are nonfiction books dealing with sex, drugs, abuse, school topics, biographies...need I go on?

To say that an entire age group of books is now worthless and should be avoided is just pure closed-minded censorship. What the author really needs to do is explore all that YA has to offer! Become more informed instead of just running off at the mouth.

To see more opinions than just mine, check out the #Yasaves hashtag on Twitter or check your favorite authors' blogs, as many, many, many people out there have already put out responses and opinions on this topic.


  1. We couldn't agree more! Especially with:

    "It is only adults who bury their heads in the sand that cannot acknowledge that even if THEIR TEEN does not need or want to read a specific book, that it will not be the perfect fit for someone else's teen."

    Yes, what we read in that piece was willful ignorance. That's what disgusted us most.

  2. I'm totally serious when I say that these people are the ones who need to walk the aisles, pick up the books, talk to Librarians, etc the most. It's just lack of knowledge...and yes, perhaps common sense, that causes ignorance like this!

  3. As a fellow librarian, I totally agree with you. It's one thing if a parent thinks a book isn't a good fit for their teen. It's another thing if a parent doesn't think a book should be read by any teen. Cuz now we're in censorship territory.

  4. Absolutely! It's just like if an adult picks up a book and says, "Huh. This isn't for me." That doesn't mean it shouldn't be on a bookshelf available to others!

  5. I whole-heartedly agree with everything you say here, Jessica. It's just mind-blowing that those people lump everything into one category without doing a bit of research first.