I write YA. And a little bit of nonfiction, middle grade, picture books...yeah, well, I write lots of stuff. I read too. I've always read. A lot. One of my earliest memories is visiting the library on vacation at my grandparents house and hauling back an armload of books for the week.
I wasn't a kid who read dark stuff. But I knew kids who did. As a teen, I tended toward John Jakes' NORTH AND SOUTH, rather than FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC like my peers.
Ok, so I was a weird kid who liked history. And I guess NORTH AND SOUTH is dark in a different way. :)
Anyway, my parents never ever ever told me what I could or couldn't read. I self censored. I remember being in a friend's bedroom as a 15-year-old and picking up Judy Blume's FOREVER and being fascinated. And horrified. Could I have brought it home to read? Sure, I don't think my mom wouldn't have been bothered by it at all--actually she probably wouldn't have known. But it wasn't something I was comfortable with.
And I think that still stands true with kids today. They're going to read YA (dark or light) or they're not. They're going to read Adult Science Fiction. Or Historical Fiction. Or Steampunk. Or Graphic novels. Isn't reading what it's all about? I mean, wouldn't we rather our children explore an issue in depth in a book than stare at some vapid teen melodrama? (not that vapid teen melodramas are bad, I'm just saying.)
Being on the periphery of the writing industry, I'm always interested in what's going on. I don't always feel like I'm qualified to weigh in on issues, but as a YA writer hoping to be published, I read the Wall Street Journal article about the supposed sad state of young adult fiction.
The only thing I could think when I finished was, "this lady hasn't been reading enough YA." Sure there are dark books out there (and there should be), but there are also loads of cool paranormal, dystopian, contemporary romance, and comedies. Action adventure, mystery, and tons more coming out every day! The author of the article clearly didn't talk to any booksellers, librarians, or authors. Or even teenagers.
These are my favorite responses to the WSJ article:
Andrew Smith's Open Letter to lauren myracle, jackie morse kessler, and cheryl rainfield aka the axis of evil.
The YA Five - open letter to a frightened mother of a bookless teen.
Laurie Halse Anderson's Stuck Between Rage and Compassion
Hey WSJ, YA Fiction is Just Fine
Caissie St. Onge on the LA Review of Books blog
Jaime Adoff--YA Saves Misses the Boat
And if you haven't check out the #YASaves hashtag on twitter. And for a laugh, check out #YAKills.