My name is Amy, and I write Young Adult fiction.
Sounds like the beginning of a twelve-step recovery program, doesn't it? A recent article published in the Wall Street Journal attempted to make all Young Adult authors feel like we needed one.
Much has been said already, on Facebook and on the blogs of many, many other authors of Young Adult fiction. The "Twitterverse" practically exploded with tweets supporting YA fiction, bearing the hashtag #YASaves and including @WSG, so the tweets went directly to the Wall Street Journal. I'm sure I can't add much to the discussion, but I had a few thoughts I just had to get out in order to be able to sleep tonight without rolling it over and over again in my mind.
1. There are plenty of really great, appropriate books for 13 years olds. A good bookseller can recommend them. The parent mentioned at the beginning of the article might've benefited from a recommendation of Rick Riordan's "Percy Jackson" or "Kane Chronicles" series, or the Jeff Kinney "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series, or any number of age-appropriate books. I find it convenient that the author of the article leaves out an entire section of the genre, focusing only on the types of YA books she wants to attack. I would've expected the Wall Street Journal to present ALL the facts, not only the ones that supported the author's limited point of view.
2. Every person I know, either personally or through online connections, who writes YA fiction does so not only for the entertainment of teens and tweens, but for the enlightenment of them as well. There is a message of hope and encouragement even in the darkest of stories... a lesson to be learned... an optimism to which readers can hold on. And it's no accident that those messages are in YA books. The authors put them there on purpose. To discount or ignore that is not okay.
3. If a book deals with drug abuse, eating disorders, or rape, it does not "normalize" such behaviors. To suggest that it is "... possible - indeed, likely..." for a book to make the darkest experiences a teen may go through "normal" is insulting, to both the author and the reader.
4. Yes, parents have a responsibility to help their kids choose good reading materials. I do that all the time with my own son. And sure, there are some books out there I would not want him to read. But in no way do I believe that any author or publisher is trying to "bulldoze" ugliness or suffering into any kid's life. In fact, quite the opposite. See # 2.
As an author of Young Adult fiction, I took this article personally. It was impossible not to. Even though I'm not yet published, I felt as though the author of this article was shaking her finger in my face in a "shame on you" motion, as if I (and every other YA author out there) had somehow done something terrible. No one has the right to make me feel that way. You may not like someone's writing. You may disagree with someone's writing. But you don't condemn it.