Book Snacks Babbles is a discussion feature here at Book Snacks where I talk about all things bookish & bloggish! For more info, check out my intro post here.
Say hello to the first discussion of 2016!! Woot woot! After starting my discussion feature, Book Snacks Babbles, last year, I severely lacked in keeping up a consistent schedule, but for this year, I’m hoping to have more of them written! They’re lots of fun to do, and it’s always great to have conversation with other bloggers, so fingers crossed I’ll have more free time to do them.
SO. This question kind of stemmed from when I was reading the controversial Wall Street Journal article by Meghan Cox Gurdon about how YA is too risky and too dark for the targeted audience. And I know many people argued back against this, but I’ve decided to join in as well. I mean, Gurdon does have a point… about how YA is becoming more and more dark, that is. In the quest to get more diverse books out there, there are books talking about all sorts of topics judged as ‘dark’: suicide, murder, cancer, and many more. So yes, I do acknowledge the fact that YA books can and do have more ‘darker’ content. But is that necessarily a bad thing? In my opinion, definitely not—and let me tell you why, in a very helpful list, if I do say so myself. Get comfy, and let’s babble!
Note: Please, I must ask that comments be kept respectful. I understand that this is a more controversial topic and may be subject to different opinions—and I’m all for discussion!—but please, no rude or disrespectful comments.
What is Dark YA anyway?
I know some of you may be asking this question to yourselves—and if you are, I don’t blame you. Really, there is no specific words to describe what it really is, but I’ll try anyway.
According to most people, and specifically Gurdon, dark YA are books that include topics that are generally considered inapporitate for the intended audience of 12-18. Things like abuse, violence, suicide, cancer, even vampires, included in the novel. I know that’s a pretty small definition—and I’m sure there is a much better way to explain it, but I’m assuming you all get the gist of it, right? If anyone has anything to add to it, feel free to tell me below.
The Importance of Dark YA
Truthfully, I hate calling books that deal with what people deem as risky or inappropriate as ‘dark’ but for the sake of shortening things down, that’s what I’m going to use. But really, just because a book deals with suicide, or murder, or cancer, or anything like that, it doesn’t mean it’s ‘dark’. It’s a part of YA fiction, and life, at that. But I digress.
One of my biggest arguments about this whole topic is how dark YA is important, essential, even, for readers. Teens, and adults, read young-adult fiction to fall in love with a story, to read about different characters, yes, but also to explore and learn about the things that fascinate or even scare them, in a way. Death, murder, suicide. Books dealing with social and personal problems are ways to show readers that there are ways to cope. The world isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, and in the world we’re in today, it would be naive to believe that people are oblivious to that.
Reading about these supposedly dark topics, represent and answers those questions teens and older people will inevitably ask to themselves. Books about death aren’t just about death, they answer questions surrounding the topic, about how to cope. Books about suicide aren’t trying to encourage it, they’re trying to explain. I can’t account for ALL the books out there talking about these topics, but I can believe in my heart that no author would intentionally be trying to encourage the behavior in their novels. In reading books surrounding ‘dark’ topics, younger and older readers alike aren’t corrupted (as far as I know), but instead is given a way to relate their own lives with the lives of others—even if the ‘others’ is fictional.
Reasons Why I Love Dark YA
It’s important that dark YA exists, but there are a few other reasons why I enjoy reading it:
- It’s an escape from reality. And I know some of you might be wondering, why would you want to escape into a reality that may (or may not) be worse than yours? Well, I can’t give you an answer for that any more than the answer you’d give for why you read a dystopian novel whose world is at war. Because yes, it’s true that perhaps our reality might be better than what happens in the book, but it’s that difference, that makes it an intriguing read. Also, I guess sometimes, when reality becomes too much, reading about how another person copes with a reality much worse than ours puts things into perspective, and in a way, is comforting (as odd as that may sound). Yes? (I hope that made sense..)
- Because it’s a glimpse into a different life. At the base of it all, fiction lets us imagine the life of another person. Just as with any other YA book, dark YA fiction tells a story about another person. The only difference (in most cases, at least) is that it includes a more sensitive story—and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Instead, in seeing this story, this different life of a character, is enlightening and thought-provoking.
- It pushes me outside me comfort zone (sometimes). From time to time, I find it to be helpful if I read something that really makes me think, you know? Yes, it’s something that I don’t usually read, (and we all know how difficult it can be to accept a kind of story you’re not used to) but that’s what challenges me to reconsider my opinions and to see things from another point of view.
So… IS YA Fiction Too Dark For Young Adults?
Maybe it’s a matter of opinion, maybe not. But for me, I’d say no. At least not for the majority of it. As a general statement, I don’t believe dark YA is meant to corrupt young adults—or anyone. Adults and teens alike are old enough to realize what books suit their fancy, and just because books deal with more sensitive topics does not mean it’s bad or inappropriate for teens. These days, people deal with a variety of problems and situations. Bullies, violence, suicide. If there weren’t books representing both the good and the bad, then it wouldn’t be the truth. With so many causes of problems out in the world, the last thing anyone needs is a lack of books that represent those problems, right?
So what is your opinion? As I mentioned at the start of this post, please keep comments respectful! I’d love to know what you think: What IS dark YA, really? Do you stay away from it, or accept it? Does it seem to you that YA fiction is becoming too ‘dark’? Let it be open for discussion!