Issues with ‘issues’ – is young adult fiction too dark?

coverLast week’s post about the Ms list of novels “that awaken girls to their feminisim” featured lots of ‘issue’ novels; a topic that’s been generating a lot of heat among readers and writers of  young adult fiction.

When The Wall Street Journal recently featured an editorial called Darkness too visible, the title  may have given a clue as to where the author, Meghan Cox Gurdon, was coming from.

No, she is not a fan of the ‘issue’ novel. Gurdon thinks young adult fiction is “ever-more-appalling”, it goes into ‘stomach-clenching detail” and it should not deal with issues like self-harm because it only encourages people to start cutting themselves. Young adults that is. Adults are never influenced by books so we don’t need to worry about them.

Cue lots of young people who actually read these books (gladdening an old librarian’s heart – they are reading) to take to their blogs and twitter accounts (#YAsaves trend) to describe how books saved them from despair.

Writers like Meg Cabot, Susane Colisanti, Laurie Halse AndersonNeil Gaiman and Jackie Morse Kessler  weighed in as well, talking about  young adult books providing positive moral guidance,  saving lives and encouraging healing. But then they would say that, being as they specialise in books about every issue you hope you’ll never have to deal with.

Last week Laraine commented on the Ms list – “As a teenager I loathed books that rubbed my nose in my problems. I read to “get me outa here!” In other words, I wanted something as different from my life as possible.”

What do you think?  Do you have a favourite ‘issue’ novel? Or should authors stay away from the darker side of life?

One thought on “Issues with ‘issues’ – is young adult fiction too dark?

  1. Laraine 20 June 2011 / 1:16 pm

    Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t suffer most of the “issues” today’s writers tackle. My worst problem as a teenager was probably being fat in an era where very few of my peers looked like me. Yes, I was bullied for it. But bullying among girls was different in those days. Only once did I have cause to fear physical bullying. I was so angry (mainly because the bully concerned was probably the only other girl who was fat) that I stopped her in her tracks simply by telling her to speak for herself while glaring at her and refusing to so much as blink. What a relief when she stopped her menacing advance and withdrew!

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