Yes, This Will Be On the Test

Writing, Reading, Laughing

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Join the Conversation: YA Saves

Welcome to all the new followers of Yes, This Will Be on the Test. I’m delighted you’ve joined us. It was a thrill to hit the 100 followers mark. Thank you.

And now for something completely different:

I would be remiss and irresponsible if I did not add my voice to the chorus of protest against the offensive article in the Wall Street Journal, "Darkness Too Visible", by Meghan Cox Gurdon. Her words slammed young adult literature as containing “hideously distorted portrayals of what life is.” If you haven’t read the article please use the link and become informed/outraged.
The piece made my blood boil and turn into a cloud of red vapor. I am prepared to write a doctoral dissertation to rip apart this gross misrepresentation of YA lit. Instead I will hit on a few of the key points that have me seeing red.
Gurdon acts as if she intends to inform and warn parents about YA lit. More accurate words describing the thrust of this article would be:
1. Sensationalism: The journalistic use of exciting or shocking stories or language at the expense of accuracy in order to provoke public interest.
2. Propaganda: Information, especially of a biased or misleading nature used to promote a particular point of view.
The use of the word pathologies to sum up crucial teen issues is as insulting as it is ignorant. How dare you shove the challenges and life altering situations that face our teens today under an unfeeling term associated with disease? Being gay is not a disease. Being abused is not a disease. Being raped is not a disease. Psychological and emotional disorders are not obliterated with a simple vaccination like the measles.
1.Foul Language: Ever ride on a junior high bus or sit next to a group of teens at a fast food restaurant? They are well versed in the language of profanity. Curse bombs are even being dropped on a daily basis on the elementary school playground. Kids don’t learn profanity from books. They learn it from life.
2. Faulty statistics: Going to a private school with a small student population to report the percentage of students reading YA books is skewed data, with a capital S. 

1.Jane Eyre – Man nearly commits bigamy since he keeps his lunatic wife locked up secretly in the house. Lunatic wife burns house down.
2. Lord of the Flies – Anarchy. Murder.
3. Add your own favorite example here… 
Why oh why is the Oprah show finished? I would love to see Oprah moderate a debate where the author of this biased article has to hold her own against the dream team of Laurie Halse Anderson, Libba Bray, Suzanne Collins, Ellen Hopkins, and yes, the Judy Blume. These creative warriors would tear her to shreds.
Let you own voice of outrage be heard. Blog about it. Register your thoughts on Facebook. Join the conversation on Twitter by weighing in under the hashtag #yasaves. Read through the tweets on #yasaves to hear an elegant artistic uproar. They will link you to some brilliant blogging thoughts.
And by all means go to this eloquent link by Laurie Halse Anderson to hear the heart of the matter.

As a mother and mentor of teen readers, a teacher, and a writer of YA, I say:



  1. Go, Leslie, go! When I was a teen, we weren't lucky enough to have YA literature. So what did I read? Adult books! Books about adultery, murder, kidnapping, etc. Did I become a cheating, kidnapping killer? Um, no. Today's kids are lucky to have YA lit, and we're luck to write it!

  2. OH and here I thought I'd burnt out all the tears... Sheesh I'm a mess! You said it so beautifully!! <33

  3. There's quite a stir, isn't there? I love it. Maybe that will pique interest in edgy YA and some of us who are new to the category will get some recognition. I've had psychologists who have read my book on cutting and suicide and passed it on to teens who have these issues.

    Thanks for continuing to put the word out. I think I'll be linking to some other sites about this and will include yours if that's okay.

  4. Julie - It's so true. We passed The Godfather around in 7th grade. If that world wasn't dystopian, I don't know what is.

    Thank you, Lisa. Tears of frustration keep grabbing me every time I think of that article.

    C. Lee - I'm flattered to be linked by you. I am so glad your book has been a light to those teens who needed one. I have a gay brother and I wish there had been a relatable book to help him navigate those tough teen years.

  5. Julie makes a great point. I never read YA until I was an adult. Before that, my only reading selections were from the adult section. In the end, what we label a genre isn't so important. If the kids are reading the adult section, no will complain about realistic themes and language.

  6. I haven't read the article yet, but I will. I do not support any sort of censoring of books. The recent issues surrounding Ellen Hopkins comes to mind. But I do believe parents should be informed and aware of what their kids are reading. If a particular book is offensive, parents have the right to ban that book from their own homes. However, I think it is more effective for parents to read YA lit and have open dialog with their kids about it. Some of my favorite books are YA, and I share them with my daughter. A few have been over the top and when I've said "No" she respects my wishes because I usually say "yes."

  7. K.M. - Isn't it strange how labeling alters a mind set? Interesting how many YA books are being read by adults.

    Laurisa - I never vetoed anything in my house, but my kids always knew I was there for questions or helping them navigate the emotions or content of what they read. They've been a great resource for recommending books to me. They turned me on to the whole "Ender's Game" universe.

  8. I was appalled when I heard about her cutting comment. I was a cutter. It wasn't something I read about in a book. At the time, I didn't know I wasn't the only one doing it. I'd have loved to have read a novel that showed me there was another way to deal with the pain.

    And Julie's right. I read historical romances as a teen. At least sex in YA is realistic and show consequences. Let's just say I had very unrealistic expectations of sex for my first time. ;)

  9. I share your view on this stuff. Someone recently gave a finely written novel one star on Amazon because it contains "bad language." C'mon... As if teenagers run around saying "heck" and "golly" and "darn." Brady Bunch days are over. ;)

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I'm going to post something new soon. No, really! ;)

  10. Great thoughts, Leslie. There are all kinds of voices that need to be heard and all kinds of readers who need to hear those voices. Unfortunately, many kids in our society do have to deal with these "pathologies" in real life, and having someone understand and say you're not alone can make the difference between life and death.

  11. Stina - I have a gay brother. I wish there had been a relatable book for him when he was in high school. I'm thankful YA lit. today reaches out to the kids who need to hear a story like theirs.

    Lee - I'll bet those even those Brady kids dropped some f-bombs off camera.

    Susan - You are so right. I'm proud of YA authors for writing about important issues with honesty.

  12. Excellent post. I agree wholeheartedly with everything you've written. That article made me pretty angry, too.

  13. There seem to be a lot of people who don't understand why and how teens and kids read. They don't understand how intelligent they are. They don't understand how much they learn and intuit from books - how much empathy they acquire. They need to get to know and trust these teens!

  14. Well said, Jemi.

    Thank you, Lydia. It was hard lassoing my anger at all. It was all over the place.

  15. That would be an awesome Oprah show. And what a perfect crew you put together! Just email Oprah maybe she'll do one last show!

  16. Maybe it would be better if we had kids watch more TV news. Nothing bad there cause it's reality. Or perhaps they should study more history--nothing dark about history.

    Tossing It Out

  17. You are dead on, Lee! I teach the truth about Columbus in my class, and it ain't pretty.