The Wall Street Journal has officially picked a fight with Young Adult novelists, editors, and fans by suggesting that the majority of the genre, a widely diverse group of books that target teenagers, are too violent, drug-filled, and sex-obsessed. Among the books WSJ writer Meghan Cox Gurdon goes after are The Hunger Games trilogy (the final installment seen here) and "the modern day Judy Blume" Lauren Myracle.
The essential thesis of Gurdon's argument is that YA books are supposed to be designed for giving readers less complex and generally more child-like books to read, instead of the darkness that adult books might have. Instead, she claims, Young Adult books have all the sex and violence (and cursing!) that adult books have. Maybe even more, because that's what sells.
The Los Angeles Book Review blog has thrown their hat into the ring by simply saying that Gurdon's right about the darkness but that it doesn't matter for kids. Life is dark. Get used to it. I also noticed, though, that neither group had the balls to go after the two Young Adult pillars: Harry Potter and Twilight.
In the end, I believe Gurdon actually has a point but is missing the actual reason why she's so angry. Adult books use the same extreme situations that Young Adult novels use. But in Young Adult novels, our main characters tend to end up being OK in the end. That's what a Young Adult book can promise you that adult fiction can't.
But really, the other thing adult fiction does that Young Adult fiction is the powerful and complex (and sometimes hard to decipher) themes. Adult fiction teaches more lessons about the world than Young Adult. Whenever I read Young Adult fiction (and this is not saying all of Young Adult fiction is themeless - it's not - but a lot of it is very simple on that regard), I am struck by how pointless a lot of the violence and sex seems to be.
While not every book needs to be thoroughly didactic, shouldn't the purpose of Young Adult fiction be to teach? If you're going to go into the darkness, shouldn't you show that not only can there be light, but you can grow from what you experience in the darkness? That's what good Young Adult is. Unfortunately, I've got to agree with Gurdon - a lot of Young Adult just seems like it wants to tell an entertaining (read: Michael Bay-style of storytelling - all explosion, no point) story.
While that's fine, and maybe that's what sells, it doesn't make it good.