Merry Wanderer of the Night  + [discussion]

I wasn't going to do this... BUT

So, I wasn't going to say anything about the WSJ article. I said my piece on Twitter, I've read many, many posts about the subject and kind of felt that everyone had said all their was to say about the subject and said it very well.

BUT

Then, I started noticing that there are a lot of people rebutting the rebuttal. There are people defending her article and I listened to her defend herself on a radio show (you can listen here) . She talks about how she comes across as anti-reading. She's sad that people are saying that parents do not have the right to have a say in what their kids read.

I don't think that. I don't think that at all.

I'm very anti-censorship. I'm very, very anti-censorship. BUT a parent has the right, has the complete right to be involved in what their children are reading. A parent has the right to make an informed and educated decision with their child and decide that a child isn't emotionally ready for a particular book. That is your right as a parent. A mother called in on the radio show with Meghan and said that she was horrified to learn that her 10 year old daughter and her friends were reading Breaking Dawn and she told her daughter that she was not allowed to read it. So she completely supports the WSJ article. But here's the thing. That book was not written for a 10 year old audience. Stephenie Meyer herself mentioned that she wouldn't let her youngest son read her book because she thought he was too young for it, even though he had read the other Twilight books. You are the parent. You have that right with your own child.

I read those #YASaves tweets on Twitter. I tweeted my own. I was a part of that Twitter conversation for hours. This debate is not about censorship. Not the way you mean. This debate is about whether these books are being written because they 'sell'. To you, this is a debate about consumerism. That because these books are edgy, daring, and gritty, people are reading them. And even though I know the odds of you reading this are slim, I'm here to tell you that YOU ARE WRONG.

Books like Scars, Thirteen Reasons Why, Shine, But I Love Him, and those other books dealing with 'dark' subject matter are not written OR read because they are 'edgy'. They are written and they are read because they save lives. The Twitter hashtag was NOT about why it's cool to read Young Adult novels, was not simply about why people read those dark and gritty novels. Did you read any of those tweets? Did you pay attention to the hashtag? YASaves. SAVES. Those tweets were heartfelt out pourings of emotions. Those tweets were people coming together and talking about which YA books SAVED THEIR LIVES. I'm not talking about books that kept them from being bored, or got them better grades in school. Some of those 'dark' and 'lurid' books out there that you are so quick to brush off as commercial and unnecessary are saving the lives of teenagers EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

THAT is why people got so upset about your article. To me, it's pretty obvious that you are pro-reading. You are a children's book reviewer and you are actually taking the time to talk about books. You are pro-reading. But you are anti-reality. Your condescending comments about how people 'claim' that these darker toned YA books 'validate' the teenage experience clearly illustrate that you don't get it. As does your radio interview where you talk about how surprised you are to be attacked by so many people about this subject.

You claim that your post was merely a way to point out the 'trend' in YA that wasn't there 30 or 40 years ago, that you were simply making a calm and rational argument, to announce the trend. But that isn't true. Not entirely. If that's all you were doing, you would not have linked vampire themed novels with books dealing with self-harm and suicide. Because they are very, very different kinds of books, very different kinds of dark. So what you have done, is not say that you are anti-book or anti-reading. What you have done is say that you would rather live in a world like the 50s, where bad things happened every single day, but no one talked about it. The main difference between now and then is not that it happens more often now, but that now people TALK about it. People come forward and say I am stronger than the silence.

Meghan, I want you to send an email to these authors you are brushing off as unimportant and commercially sensational. These authors you have condescendingly claimed try to validate the teenage experience. Ask them. Ask them to share with you their reader response. Ask THEM what teens are telling them about the impact of their book. You are going to hear something from them. Something that should soften your heart and open your mind. Each of these authors who write these books you call dark and lurid are going to tell you that they have received letter upon letter, year after year, day after day thanking them because their book saved their life.

These books are SAVING LIVES. So, send a letter or email to Cherly Rainfield (that's her own arm on the cover of Scars you know. That book is written through her experiences and her own pains.) Talk to Laurie Halse Anderson, Ellen Hopkins, Sherman Alexie, Chris Crutcher, Stephanie Kuuehnert and Jay Asher. Do you know what the common theme you are going to find? Redemption. Hope. LIFE. These books save lives. Not in the arbitrary or abstract. In REALITY. People pick up these books, realize they are not alone and they seek help. They stop their destructive behaviors. They tell the truth. They LIVE.

THAT is why the YA Universe is so upset about your article. NOT because we think parents don't have the right to have a say in what their kids read. NOT because we think that every single book is a perfect fit for every single kid. NOT because we think you think that no one should be allowed to read anything other than rainbows and lollipops. NOT because we enjoy depravity and get thrills from reading books about disparity. People are upset because you don't GET it. You are missing the point. The justification isn't that these books 'validate' the teen experience. These books ARE the teen experience.

These books teach teens that they are not alone, that their experiences are valid, that the bad things that have happened to them are NOT THEIR FAULT, that there is still hope, that things get better. These books help these kids hold on, seek help, and they teach compassion. I have never been bullied. But, because of books like Thirteen Reasons Why I am able to understand what bullying does to a kid and you had better believe that I'm going to pass that lesson along to my own

Meghan, before you condemn an entire body of writing, you should talk to the people who write it and the people they are trying to reach. Maybe, instead of simply defending your stance and trying to prove that you really are in the 'right' here, you should try listening to what the people are saying. These books save lives. Real lives of real kids. If this is really your opinion, and you are going to stand by it this strongly, maybe you should be the one to talk, individually, to these writers, like Cheryl, who write from personal experience, and go to these teenagers, individually whose lives have been saved by the powerful messages they've read and tell them that it's too dark. Tell them that their experiences don't really belong in books. And then you can come back and tell us that you still believe you are in the right. Listen to teenagers, the very people you feel you are trying to protect tell you why this book is necessary and then come back and tell me that this book that is saving lives isn't really good enough. Try it. I dare you.