Okay, I’ve read gobs of posts lately about whether or not YA lit has gotten too dark. . .
And it’s a fine question.
I mean, with kids killing kids in The Hunger Games, innocent girls getting stalked by vampires in Twilight, and the rash of YA stories exploring teen suicide, bullying, eating disorders, school shootings, drug addiction, plastic surgery, sexual experimentation and more, it’s hard not to wonder about the effect of the YA genre on today’s teens.
But as much airtime as this question is getting, I can’t help thinking, it’s the wrong question.
The fact is, these stories are succeeding in the market because these are the stories teens crave. If such dark topics didn’t speak to teen readers, they wouldn’t be on the shelves, right?
I can’t help wondering why folks aren’t asking better questions. For example:
“What’s happening for teens that makes them gravitate, en masse, toward the darkness?”
“Why are they connecting so deeply to authors like Jennifer Brown, Jay Asher, and Laurie Halse Anderson?”
Well, let’s have a look, shall we?
–Teen suicide is the third leading cause of death in young people age 15-24, and even more scary, the fourth leading cause of death in ages 10-14. One in eleven high school students admits to having made a suicide attempt (CDC).
–2.5% to 4% of teenage girls have either anorexia or bulimia (Eating Disorders Coalition).
–Approximately 160,000 kids miss school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students (MBNBD).
–In the past year, over 70% of teens admit to having used alcohol, 34% marijuana, and an average of about 8% to using hard drugs like cocaine, opiates, hallucinogens, and steroids (U.S. Dept. of Justice).
–1 in 5 female high school students report being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner (Journal of the AMA). Approximately 58% of rape victims report being raped between the ages of 12-24 (U.S. Dept of HHS).
–Roughly half of all U.S. high school students have had sex, with 39% of those reporting that they did not use a condom. Likewise, nearly 8000 young people age 13-24 are reported as having HIV, and more than 400,000 girls ages 15-19 give birth each year (CDC).
– 9% of the murders in the U.S. are committed by kids under the age of 18.
If art reflects life, I’m stunned we get our happy endings at all!
So, to those brave authors willing to write about it, I say “Good for you!” This is their reality. We may not intend it, but kids deal with hard stuff, every day. If the YA industry can raise awareness, offer resources, and make parents talk to their kids about getting help, then I’m having a hard time being anything but grateful.
But enough about me, what do y’all think?