“Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life. Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something.” –Thoreau

09 June 2011

From a formerly-raging teen.

The Wall Street Journal recently ran a piece entitled "Darkness Too Visible: Contemporary fiction for teens is rife with explicit abuse, violence and depravity. Why is this considered a good idea?"

Here is a quote from that article:

"Yet it is also possible—indeed, likely—that books focusing on pathologies help normalize them and, in the case of self-harm, may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might otherwise never have imagined such extreme measures. Self-destructive adolescent behaviors are observably infectious and have periods of vogue. That is not to discount the real suffering that some young people endure; it is an argument for taking care."


Alcoholism, self-harm, suicide, and depression may have "periods of vogue," but they are also real, quantifiable mental illnesses. To pretend that kids are going to jump on some kind of self-harm bandwagon might make the parents of the kids doing so feel good ("See? We're not to blame! It was the fault of books!"). Realistically speaking, even teenagers who try destructive behaviors because they read them in books are already dealing with underlying issues. Happy teens don't start gauging themselves with paperclips. Happy teens don't start shooting cocaine. Happy, well-adjusted teens don't try to commit suicide.

Books are powerful, but they aren't that powerful.

Anyway, I'm not going to spend a lot of time going into this (although believe me, I could) since many other writers whom I respect have already done so. I'm just going to direct you to their intelligent commentary and let you make decisions for yourself.

Because, you know, thinking for ourselves is the point of being human. Isn't it?

Colleen Mondor - "Maybe, finally, the books teens read are being honest"

Laurie Halse Anderson - "Stuck between rage and compassion"

Linda Holmes - "Seeing Teenagers as We Wish They Were: The Debate Over YA Fiction"