Shame on me... or the Wall Street Journal?

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.


  1. Hi Amy! I've been outta touch for awhile and I'm just now getting back into the swing of things. It's been a crazy year so far but it's finally slowing down.

    I read the WSJ article and I need to think about it for a bit before I do much commenting. I agree with much of what she said but then again I agree with much you said as well. I'll ponder a while and then come back to share my thoughts.

    Hope all is going well for ya! I'm planning to go to C-ville's reunion. Hope to see ya there!

  2. Thanks for the comment. There were many points she made in the article that I could relate to. I'm a parent and I want my kid reading "good" stuff. But to lump all YA literature and all YA authors into one big mass is irresponsible and poor reporting, in my opinion. There are lots of dark and gritty YA books out there, but there are also lots of not-so-gritty ones, and she made no mention of those. The things that really offended me were the idea that books about rape/eating disorders/etc. would somehow "normalize" those behaviors and the closing paragraph, where she accused publishers of trying to bulldoze suffering/ugliness/misery into the lives of our children. Those statements were ridiculous, and for me (and many others) negated whatever other validity might've been found in the article.

  3. Good post and lots to think about.

    Perhaps the purpose of the article was to increase parental awareness. You know--even though a teenager reads YA books, parents still need to be aware of the themes in these books.

    On the other hand, there are those who would prefer the world be foam padded for everyone's safety.

    The YA community's response to the WSJ article has been interesting and thought provoking. I'm not a YA author or a parent. Really, I'm just a tourist on the whole issue.

  4. Great points! I agree whole-heartedly. Even more appalling is the fact that SCARS by Cheryl Rainfield was specifically picked as an example of sensationalism - using cutting as a trend to make money. I wonder if the author of the WSJ article realized that the cover is in fact CHERYL'S ARM, and that fact alone flies in the face of the "point" of the article - the author used her arm as a way to connect with teens, and show them that "It Gets Better." As I said on my blog, I usually don't just jump on any bandwagon, but having just interviewed Cheryl only a week before the WSJ article came out... well, it made my hackles raise.

    Cheryl's Interview: http://writerwriterpantsonfire.blogspot.com/2011/05/sat-with-cheryl-rainfield-query-that.html

  5. Oh my goodness! I did not know that was Cheryl's arm on the cover. I will have to put that book at the top of my TBR list. I can't imagine that the author of WSG article realized that, otherwise how in the world could she have practically accused Ms. Rainfield of promoting/normalizing cutting! And if she did know it was Cheryl's arm and STILL wrote that article... well... if that's the case, I'd have no words.

    Thanks for stopping by and visiting, and for the info about SCARS. It's just amazing to me... the amount of good, relevant literature that's out there for young readers... whether it's light and funny or dark and gritty. I was already proud to be a part of the YA community, but this weekend I was even more proud! #YASaves!!