Thoughts on the “dark side” of YA stories

I posted this on the WSJ article about the dark side of YA stories and the “problems” that causes. Figured I’d toss it up here for good measure because it is a good topic to think about.

Adolescence is a time full uncertainty, promise, and yes, darkness. It’s full of highs and lows. Whether or not teens experience the dark side of life and its accompanying lows, most know of or have friends who have gone there, and most are looking to gain and understanding what this kind of world experience is all about. YA authors aren’t out there writing these stories because teens are vicariously into these things. They aren’t going to read about a girl who cuts herself because they want to do it too. They want to understand, to know, and be able to talk to their friends about these things, because they are fully aware that sex, violence, drugs, and emotional trauma are going on around them. Perhaps they’ve experienced themselves. Many have. Stories and words offer a safe place within which to immerse themselves in the experience and come to grips with what it is. There is no slippery slope going on here. Teens aren’t stupid. While naive in many ways, not enough credit is given for others. Publishers put out books that readers want to read. There is no agenda here to foist the dark topics upon teens and give them no other options. Fact of the matter is, most of these dark stories also come with messages of acceptance and hope. For many, the messages teens get, the worlds they see, the characters they live with in the pages of these books, can and do help them immensely. It allows them to understand, gives them ways to speak about issues where words were not available before. Do some go too far with their depictions? Sure. You get that in any genre. The point is, teens need these kinds of stories. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be buying them off the shelves in the numbers they do.

What do you think? Happy reading/writing everyone.


2 responses to “Thoughts on the “dark side” of YA stories

  1. Nicely stated. Lately, there seems to have been an escalation in the violence portrayed both in literature and on film. This does not mean that these kinds of stories cannot be of benefit to the reader or viewer. Hopefully, they are a reflection of an increasingly violent society and not the result of competition among writers and filmmakers to push the envelope of storytelling.

    • Agreed. Pushing the envelope is one thing, as long as it is for the purpose of saying something that really needs to be said. It’s when it’s for the sake of pushing the envelope that it fails.