Latest News

Field Trip Friday Special Edition: The WSJ and #YASaves

- Usually, I post "the big news" of the week as part of our Friday round up, but there was just too much to include on this topic. Be sure to check out the main post for lots of other great publishing links! -

The Controversy:

On Saturday, the Wall Street Journal posted "Darkness Too Visible," an article in which Meghan Cox Gurdon claimed that "contemporary fiction for teens is rife with explicit abuse, violence and depravity," and asked, "Why is this considered a good idea?"

The YA community answered. Loudly. (Because that's what we do. We speak loudly.)

Publisher's Weekly has already written a great overview of the issue, so rather than summarize the arguments as in our last special edition, I've just organized the week's myriad responses. Some of the comments on the original article are sucking my will to live, but there are plenty of antidotes here.

Responses from Authors Mentioned:
  • Cheryl Rainfield: "I could not have survived my child- and teenhood without books." (Includes list of related links)
  • Sherman Alexie: Just read the whole thing. I can't possibly pick a favorite quote. 
  • Lauren Myracle: "Unlike Laurie, I don’t feel compassion toward Mrs. Gurdon Cox." 

      • Author Laurie Halse Anderson: "As a preacher’s kid, and as someone who loves a lot of conservatives, and lives in a rural, conservative community, I understand the adults who are terrified of YA books. I feel compassion for them. Because it’s not the books they’re afraid of."
      • Linda Holmes at NPR: "It's a lovely thought that surrounding kids with fun books about beauty will bend their perspectives toward beauty like a plant growing toward a sunny window. And certainly, it would be bad if everything always were murder and death and misery. But adolescence is a dark time for a lot of people."
      • Author Ellen Hopkins: "Step up to the plate, parents. Read with your kids. Open the lines of communication and discuss your kids’ favored reading material with them. That’s parenting. Censorship is not."
      • Author and psychologist Sarah Fine: "The lady is entitled to her opinion. The problem I have is if her opinion is mistaken for thorough, well-informed analysis."
      • Christopher John Farley: "The worst pathological books will fade away with childhood. The best will live on and become permanent parts of the landscape of adolescence."   
      • Librarian Jessica Miller: "As a YA Librarian, the most important part of my job is to connect the teen readers... to the right book." 
      • Blogger Travis Darling: "Should YA novels be full of a deceitful joy and beauty or should they instead contain realism, characters and situations that we can identify with and be inspired by?"
      • Blogger Leila: "It is hard to deny the point that a lot of YA lit does cover dark material but the point is that these are still issues that teens face in these days."
      • Blogger Jen: "Can people just please, please, please back off of my favorite genres?"
      • Author Suzanne Lazear: "I only wish my parents noticed exactly how many books I read (both fiction and non) about eating disorders." 
      • Author Laini Taylor: "They're being disingenuous. I don't actually think their real fear is that their young people will be made dark by reading about darkness. I think their real fear is that their young people will be made free."
        • Bookseller Josie Leavitt: "Experts exist for a reason. If parents, or teens for that matter (who actually do a pretty damn good job of self-selecting what they’re comfortable reading), are feeling besieged by what they think are the only books out there, then talk to a bookseller about what you feel is appropriate for your child to be reading."
        • Librarian Shedrick: "YA literature doesn’t present the world as it should be.  It presents it as it is."
        • Author Everett Maroon at GayYA: "Those of us dedicated to producing the best written stories for young readers are a tough lot. Must be all those scary novels I read as a kid."
        • The LA Review of Books did an entire series, with pieces by Ned Vizzini, Caissie St. Onge, Margaret Stohl, and Cecil Castellucci, which includes this fantastic piece:
          "I thought having a special spot was a good idea. So I picked one on my body. It was right above my right hip bone, like where my appendix is. Sometimes I’d touch my special spot. Now I know that Deenie’s special spot and my special spot were totally different spots."

        In Defense of Meghan Cox Gurdon:
        • Author Veronica Roth: "I feel like I understand the situations of the two people involved in the article-- that is, the woman described in the beginning and the article's author."
        • Author Misty Provencher: "What the WSJ Could Have Said Without Getting Creamed"

        • Blogger Andye at Reading Teen: " books have an affect on teens or not? I definitely think they do.  And I think they can affect kids positively or negatively.  I think it depends on the child, the book, the situation, the parental involvement, and many other factors.

        • Blogger Janice Harayda: "In her latest article and others, Cox Gurdon has paid young people’s literature the highest compliment:  She has given children’s books the close scrutiny that, in an age of shrinking book-review sections, typically goes only to those for adults. For that, she deserves gratitude."

        • Meghan Cox Gurdon defends herself on Minnesota Public Radio.

        Dear WSJ: Stuff It 
        • Agent Janet Reid: "I'm not apologizing for reading, representing and selling YA books."
          • Editor Roger Sutton: "If you're a teen who is running your reading choices by your parents, grow up. If you're a parent who feels compelled to approve your child's reading, shut up. The books and the kids are all right."
          • Author Lindsey Roth Culli: "Gee. Wouldn't it be great if there was like, a way to tell if certain 'pathologies' are cropping up more? Hold. The. Phone. Google DOES have such capabilities."
          • Author Gayle Forman: "I’m not even going to talk about that ridonculous piece in the Wall Street Journal... What I am going to talk about, because I have experience in this matter, is crappy journalism, and the dangers of bullying loudmouths setting the agenda." 
          • Author A.S. King: "If our society would stop being so obsessed about sexuality, gender and sex roles maybe we’d have some time to talk about and work on the real problems which cause real darkness in 1 out of 3 people’s lives."
          • Author Courtney Summer (whose post is brilliant illustrated with gifs, because that's how we do in YA): "I am so thankful for writers who confront the darkness rather than hide from it. I am equally thankful for writers who show us the brighter side of life as well. AND OH MY GOD do you think there are books out there that do BOTH? I bet there are. Wow."
          • Professor Philip Nel: "Since Gurdon makes this point earlier in the same article, one wonders whether there are two Gurdons at work here — say, Gurdon (who deplores darkness in lit for teens) and Gurdon Prime (who recognizes that darkness need not beget darkness)."
          • Author Sara Zarr: "It’s that time of year again. ('YA fiction is too [insert popular cultural critique].')"  
          • Author Barry Lyga: "When these disputes arise, I’m always tempted just to post 'Go fuck yourselves' and let that be it. Because, in all honesty, 'Go fuck yourselves' is roughly the same level of respect and consideration they show to me and mine." 
            • Agent Sarah LaPolla: "I don't feel I need to explain my art to you, Warren."  
            • Author Colleen Mondor: "I'm so tired, so bloody tired, of this sort of foolishness and the fact that space is given to this foolishness and that anyone would think this is a reasonable thing to say when it comes to books and reading."
            • Photographer Kyle Cassidy: "It's kind of like robbing a bank that keeps its cash in an unguarded shoebox in a public park to say 'I'm going to take on the Wall Street Journal's commentary on YA Literature.'"

              No Really, We've Had This Conversation Before:
              • David Lubar: "The History of Young Adult Literature"
              • Author Paul W. Hankins: "There Are Dark Places and Spaces Where We Can Still Talk about Them."

                You Really Couldn't Find Anything On The Shelves? Oh Here, Let Me Do It:

                • Author Diane K. Salerni"Here’s a list of some of the heart-warming classics I was assigned to read when I was in high school."
                • Blogger and librarian Kelly Jensen at Stacked: "These are the books that don't score 6-figure publicity campaigns and are often the ones denigrated by big-named newspapers as smut, as harmful, and as the stuff that ruins teenagers. These are the books that publishers suggest are hard sells, and that those who don't read it completely misunderstand."
                More Round Ups With Commentary:
                • Liz B. at School Library Journal: "If you don’t know about it, it won’t happen to you!"

                  Discussing Related Issues:
                  • The Intern: "In INTERN's case, INTERN's mom didn't stop her from reading YA books because they were too gritty. INTERN was shamed out of reading them because in her (rather snooty when it comes to reading) family, YA books weren't considered "real books"."
                  • Tony Woodlief: Bad Christian Art-- "I’m convinced that bad art derives, like bad literary theory, from bad theology. To know God falsely is to write and paint and sculpt and cook and dance Him falsely. Perhaps it’s not poor artistic skill that yields bad Christian art, in other words, but poor Christianity."

                  Reacting to the Reaction:
                  • Book blogger Steph Su: "What the hell is really black and white in this world, besides for a chess board and a zebra?"
                  • Author Martha Brockenbrough: "I've come to believe we're not making quite the right case in defense of YA and other children's literature."
                  • Book blogger Ceilidh: "I’m glad people stood up to terrible journalism and book banner mentality and I’m glad they did it in droves. However, Debbie Downer that I am, I couldn’t help but think of YA’s general attitude to criticism and the issue of fighting back against that which is within the YA sphere." 

                  #YASaves Stories
                  • Blogger Pam van Hylckama Vlieg: "I have never in my life uttered that sentence out loud and probably never will."
                  • Blogger Angel: "The class was having a homeroom recollection session one afternoon and our adviser told us to take out a piece of paper and write down the names of ten people who we hated in the class. I was named eighteen times. Eighteen."
                  • Bloggers Julie and Lanna: "Since getting involved with the YA community, I've become more comfortable and accepting of who I am."
                  • Artie Is My Muse: "Sometimes i feel like i have too many of those words flying around in my head- they’re just banging against every surface and i can’t seem to grab the ones i want and they all move so fast i can’t always tell what they are.  And one of the ways that gets me out of that panicky, confusing, upsetting place is to read."
                  • Author Johanna Harness: "I cannot do the mental gymnastics to deny the bad in the world, either for myself or for others.  Bad stuff happens. It happens all the time. I can offer friendship and comfort and an ear to listen. Thankfully, I can also offer books."
                  • Teacher Crissa Chappell: "There is no "right way" to connect students with words on paper. But there's more than one way."
                  • Blogger Nicole: "I owe Laurie Halse Anderson my best friend's life."

                  Getting the Last Laugh:

                  Image credit: @alexkost19
                  • Author Kurtis Scaletta: Brightness Too Visible-- "How light are board books? Lighter than you think, sweetie."
                  • Author Sarah Ockler: All This Darkness! What to Buy The Grown Up Reader?-- "Contemporary fiction for grownups is exploding with explicit abuse, violence, depravity, scandal, lies, casual sex, crime, conspiracy, oneupmanship, financial ruin, loose morals, overt glorification of generally bad ideas, and boobs. "  

                  Please link any posts I missed in the comments and I'll add them as time allows on Friday!


                    Kate Hart

                    Kate is the author of After the Fall, coming January 24, 2017 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. A former teacher and grant writer, she now owns a treehouse-building business in the Ozarks and hosts the Badass Ladies You Should Know interview series.

                    Posts by Kate

                    website twitter instagram goodreads tumblr Badass Ladies You Should Know

                    • Blogger Comments
                    • Facebook Comments


                    1. This is the most comprehensive and well-constructed summary of the whole WSJ #YASaves fiasco that I have seen yet. Thank you so much for that extremely entertaining and edifying post about the controversy surrounding the YA lit community and the darkness that may, or may not, be affecting today's youth negatively. My thoughts are twofold, but overall, I think kids, and parents, always have the CHOICE to read something different. As a future librarian for young adults, I believe a conversation with a librarian (or perhaps a book store employee?) could have alleviated the situation altogether and could have pleased the parent in the article. As "dark" as some current literature is, there is always other sides of the coin, and a lot of current YA lit is not only light, it's fabulous!

                    2. I think this possibly goes under "rebuttals":

                    3. Hehehe excellent point. I posted my commentary on the article on Sunday. Probably falls in the "Rebuttals" category.


                      Have a great weekend!

                    4. This is a most brilliant compilation.

                    5. Fantastic roundup! We kept a list on our FB page of all the responses we read, but this is beautifully organized.

                    6. Kate, this round-up is so comprehensive and amazing -- thank you so much for all your incredibly hard work. You're like, the historian of the YA industry.

                    7. This is insanely comprehensive!

                    8. This one probably belongs under Rebuttals - although I'm happy to be in the Stuff It category too...

                    9. Thanks for the great list. I spent a long time going through it.
                      I just wrote my own, if you want to add it to the list.

                      Haha, word verification: fumed
                      I fumed as I read that article

                    10. I bow to you, Kate. You could not possibly have done a better job at this.

                    11. Wow, what a ton of work, but thank you so much for compiling this!

                    12. i see that my post about the wsj article didn't make the cut, but looking over all the other great responses i don't think it was exactly "missed."

                      i can save everyone the trouble and leave you with my post's moral:

                      stop blaming books


                    Comments are moderated on posts two weeks old or more -- please send us a tweet if yours needs approval!

                    Item Reviewed: Field Trip Friday Special Edition: The WSJ and #YASaves Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kate Hart