AUTHOR NEWS: US Teen fiction storm
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, columnist Meghan Cox Gurdon recently stated that contemporary fiction for teens is now “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″.
She went on to say that â€œProfanity 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,”. Pointing to novels that deal with self-harming teenagers, including Cheryl Rainfield’s Scars and Jackie Morse Kessler’s Rage, Gurdon said that teen fiction is “constantly reflecting back hideously distorted portrayals of what life is”, and that its focus on the darker side of life, covering subjects like self-harm, can actually “normalise” it rather than â€“ as its defenders claim â€“ giving a voice to the voiceless.
Young adult fiction writers were quick to respond to Gurdon’s attack, with Meg Cabot tweeting: “Everyone should read what they like w/o being judged”, and Neil Gaiman revealed that he gets two to three letters a month from readers “telling me how my books got them through hell. & the Teens have the worst hells”.
Cheryl Rainfield, whose novel Scars (pictured) was singled out by Gurdon, blogged that “talking about painful issues and experiences is not advocating them â€“ it is breaking silence and encouraging healing”.
“I could not have survived my child- and teenhood without books. YA fantasy books helped me escape the abuse and torture I was living, and YA realistic books helped me feel less alone. Books helped me hope and dream for safety, love, and kindness, and helped me realise that not everyone was as deliberately cruel as my abusers,” wrote the author. “I get two to three reader letters every week telling me that Scars helped readers â€“ teens telling me that Scars helped them to stop cutting, get into therapy, know they’re not alone, talk about incest or self-harm or being queer when they never had been able to before. That is what I want to hold on to. That is what I want to remember.”
(from the Peters’ monthly newsletter)