Does the Wall Street Journal's latest YA article, Young Adult Fiction Takes a Dark Turn, (It Was, Like, All Dark & Stormy) disappoint?
It classifies Thirteen Reasons Why as being about suicide. Personally, I think it's more about discovering that people have lives you don't know about, about how your words and actions have an impact you don't realize.
Back to the WSJ article. There's a nice throwaway line about librarians who want to keep this book off the shelves. No, really! There may be parents who are alarmed that their 12-year-olds are reading about suicide, or librarians who want to keep the book off the shelves, but the story is clearly connecting with its audience—the book has sold over 200,000 copies, according to Nielsen BookScan. I guess the WSJ fact-checker decided that "may" meant you didn't need an actual librarian to have actually said or done it. Then again, the WSJ fact-checker said Peeled won a Newbery Honor.
More good: this makes it sound like Melinda was depressed BEFORE the rape:“ Speak,” about a deeply miserable girl who is raped at a party. Bill Clinton knew the power of "is" versus "was."
But wait! There's more: it’s useful to consider the history of books read by young adults that traffic in death and cruelty and mental illness. Think of Mary going blind in “Little House on the Prairie” or the ultimate institutionalization of Holden Caulfield in “Catcher in the Rye.” With authors like Robert Cormier, the author instead goes to Laura Ingalls Wilder and the fact-based blindness of Mary, the result of an illness? Seriously, part of me thinks I missed the chapter where Laura stabbed Mary in the eye and blinded her.
Too bad about those missteps, because I actually agree with the author's thesis that teens identify with the "big bad" not because the "big bad" is happening in their lives, but because it feels like it is. See Buffy (High School, metaphor for hell).
Ouch. But she just lost more points for calling other YA books "fizzy escapism that long dominated the young adult marketplace." I like the "fizzy", just not the blanket description. Facts, please? Titles?
ACK! Spoiler alert for books mentioned at the end of the article. Thank God she hasn't read Liar, Going Bovine, or Catching Fire.
Ha. I actually agree with her last sentence.
Overall grade: Dude, so close to an A. But really, to omit Cormier? And use Ingalls instead?
This would have been better written and less a response piece if I weren't in the middle of 48 Hours of Reading.
© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
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