Thursday, June 09, 2011

Depravity and Young Adult Fiction

As a father of two teenage girls, I am very concerned about what books they read. Thankfully, neither of them like to read what's currently being offered in "young adult fiction" and for good reason. Look no further than Meghan Cox Gurdon's excellent essay in the Wall Street Journal:

How dark is contemporary fiction for teens? Darker than when you were a child, my dear: So dark that kidnapping and pederasty and incest and brutal beatings are now just part of the run of things in novels directed, broadly speaking, at children from the ages of 12 to 18.

Pathologies that went undescribed in print 40 years ago, that were still only sparingly outlined a generation ago, are now spelled out in stomach-clenching detail. Profanity that would get a song or movie branded with a parental warning is, in young-adult novels, so commonplace that most reviewers do not even remark upon it.

If books show us the world, teen fiction can be like a hall of fun-house mirrors, constantly reflecting back hideously distorted portrayals of what life is. There are of course exceptions, but a careless young reader—or one who seeks out depravity—will find himself surrounded by images not of joy or beauty but of damage, brutality and losses of the most horrendous kinds.
Ms. Cox Gurdon bravely exposes the dark underbelly that is young adult fiction and goes further to show that this recent advent in publishing has been an increasingly detrimental trend. Take time to read this excellent essay.

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