#YAsaves: The YA Community Responds to the WSJ

This weekend, The Wall Street Journal published an article of the utmost idiocy. If you haven’t heard the hubub yet, the article basically lambasts YA lit as being too dark for today’s teens. As a reader and supporter of all literature, but in particular YA lit, I take issue with pretty much every word in the article. I would go into a lengthy breakdown of the many problems with this article, but our staff member Steph has already done so quite adequately — she broke down the article and it’s ridiculousness on her own blog, and summarily nailed down the biggest problem with the article’s overarching idea:

No one forces kids to read a certain book. These things cost money – they’re not being forced on them. Even in most schools, parents have the right to object to materials they consider inappropriate. If enough people agree, there’s usually a compromise. That’s the democratic way.

A better approach, in my opinion, is to let these books open a dialogue among children and parents. Discuss the issues. Read the book along with your teen.

I was out and about when the news hit online and the firestorm took over the blogosphere & Twitter — but catching up on everything that transpired in the wake of the article hitting the web, I am (A) amazed that the WSJ even deemed to publish such tripe (though it’s done so in the past) and (B) overwhelmingly touched and amazed by the community of YA readers, authors, publishers, etc.

In the wake of the article, the YA community — and I believe this trending topic was spear-headed by Libba Bray & Maureen Johnson — launched a trending topic called #YAsaves. It took only 20 minutes to become the 3rd most popular trending topic in the U.S.

That’s huge. Not only does it make me overwhelmingly proud to be part of the YA community as a blogger, but it hopefully, finally shows the WSJ that it cannot let people like the author of this article continue to share their hugely misguided opinion. Because as Libba Bray pointed out, this isn’t an article you can just roll your eyes at. It does damage. Libba wrote on Twitter:

I genuinely believe that these articles are hurtful, that they goad banners & keep much-needed books out of the hands of the teens who should be reading them. Books are, at their heart, dangerous. Yes, dangerous. Because they challenge us: our prejudices, our blind spots. They open us to new ideas, new ways of seeing. They make us hurt in all the right ways. They can push down the barricades of “them” & widen the circle of “us” And when one feels alone–say, because of a terrible burden of a secret, something that creates pain and isolation, books can heal, connect That’s what good books do. That’s what hard books do. And we need them in the world.

If you want proof of how much YA literature has impacted the world, simply search #YAsaves on Twitter and you will see thousands upon thousands of responses, standing up for YA literature and showing why it is important in all its crude, dark, uncensored glory.

And when it really comes to down to it, do you really want to keep a book out of a teen’s hands because of the subject matter, when it could be that very book that makes that teen a reader? ANY book is a good book, if it’s the right book for you.

Kids don’t read books because they are “hyper-violent” or filled with “dark, dark” subject matter. They read YA lit because the stories are good; because the subjects matter; because they can relate to the stories and characters. Teens seek out ways to cope with everything they deal with in their lives, and YA lit is a critical outlet for finding these stories. What’s more, literature is an outlet and an escape. I know that’s the biggest reason I read; to get away from the world for a few hours and get lost in the pages of some great story.

The beauty of YA literature is that it’s filled with books and authors who are not afraid to tell the truth to teens; that’s why YA lit is so popular. It is honest, and teens know that.

Feel free to share your #YAsaves stores in the comments below, as well as on Twitter — and we encourage you to write to the WSJ and share your opinion, as well.

In summary, I’ll say this … READ ON!


15 thoughts on “#YAsaves: The YA Community Responds to the WSJ

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  1. “but it hopefully, finally shows the WSJ that it cannot let people like the author of this article continue to share their hugely misguided opinion”

    Wait, people can’t share their opinion because it’s not the same as your’s? I don’t agree with the WSJ article, but it was well written, and it raised some provocative points. You should be ashamed of saying that this writer should not have been allowed to have her opinion-though I doubt you are.

    1. It’s not a matter of simply posting someone’s opinion (which should go IN THE OPINION SECTION, and not in the BOOKS section) — it’s a matter of posting a misguided attack on a very important part of literature, from someone who is clearly not well informed on the subject matter at large. Which is to say, the author does not understand the point of the “dark” YA lit she’s attacking. The WSJ has done this before, posting articles that attack YA, written by people who do not understand the genre, and then failing to post responses (or include quotes, research, etc.) that shows the other side. It’s a one-sided attack on YA lit, without any input from the millions of people who do support YA lit, regardless of how “dark” or “violent” it may seem to this article. The overwhelming response with the #YAsaves campaign on Twitter is proof of just how poorly-informed the article was. And if it was meant to be just an opinion piece, than it was also published in the wrong section of the newspaper. This not only seriously damages the work millions have done to encourage kids/teens to read, but it also discredits the WSJ as a newspaper that fails to approach topics from both sides of the story — but simply publishes opinion as fact, without any basis for comparison. It’s irresponsible journalism, plain and simple. (And I say that as someone who works in the journalism industry.)

      1. We completely agree that the WSJ piece should have been clearly labeled as an op-ed as opposed to a regular “article.” It’s not that people can’t say this stuff about YA — really, they do it all the time — but they can’t state it as *fact* when it’s not. If/when they do, they will be called out, as we are doing now.

        We have been moved (to tears) by some of the #YAsaves responses, and we’re keeping a running list of them on our FB page for anyone else who wants to read. We’ve included this post, hope you don’t mind!

  2. I was never a big YA reader. I was always into Literature Fiction. It wasn’t until my best friend begged me to read Twilight because the movie was coming out that I picked up my first YA book.

    Yes, I am one of those that Twilight changed. The day I picked up Twilight I was on my way back to NYC from Vermont. The very next day I got a call that my mother passed. I had no way of dealing with her death or even knew where to begin to make myself okay for my little brother and sister. What helped me was Stephanie Meyers Twilight Saga.

    It kept my mind occupied and I was so into the story and Edward and Bella, that it did help me deal with it. And the relationship Bella had with her father sort of reminded me of my mother and I. It helped me out a lot and I was able to be strong for my brother and sister.

    This article is ludicrous! There are so many things Young Teens can learn and relate to in these books. Things that half the time parents don’t know are going on with their teen.

    We (yes even adults like myself) are always looking for someone to relate too or something to make us feel better. Reading YA I feel helps a lot of teens out there. They learn from them, they find truth, and most of all a connection with an author… with SOMEONE. To not allow your kid to read a book because you’re obviously afraid of what they might learn from it or might do because of it is not right at all. Honestly, keeping a child sheltered to the world, in my opinion, just makes them more curious and makes them want to do things they shouldn’t.

    We need to make our children AWARE.

    I haven’t heard ONE story about a teen who read a book and went and had sex. Or went ahead and killed them self. If a story is “…all vampires and suicide and self-mutilation, this dark, dark stuff” I say read it first. Because I promise there in that story somewhere, there is a positive meaning. There is always light to “this dark, dark stuff.”

  3. Another thing I want to add lol

    Teens find it very hard to be able to talk to their parents about things. And as much as we would like for our children to reach out to us, they don’t.

    Maybe reading that dark book or vampire novel can help them deal with what they are going through. It might sound dumb, but I promise there are tons of people who felt down and needed someone to talk too, but instead picked up a book and felt better.

    To take YA books away from them because they feel are to dark or full of Vampires and demons is just taking away another way for them to deal with whatever.

    Just like some people turn to music when they are down. They feel the lyrics are about their life etc. It works the same way with books.

  4. Reading the reactions to the WSJ article and all the #YAsaves stories on twitter really shows what a wonderful and beautiful thing the YA community is. YA books are like the best friend who always listens. These books are there for teens when people aren’t. The WSJ article is one-sided and hugely misinformed and it makes me sick to think that there are people who would want to take books away from the people who so desperately need them.

  5. Not much to add, just wanted to say that I agree with everything you said. I read that article last night and felt so offended; not only because it was utterly wrong about YA fiction, but because it presented some of the most powerful and life-changing books out there (Scars, The Outsiders, Go Ask Alice, The Hunger Games) as examples of these “hideously distorted portrayals of life.” WTF? It is obvious the writer has absolutely no understanding of YA literature, and what teens gain from reading it.

  6. Thank you! It is one of the cardinal rules of journalism to get an opinion from “the other side.” This is why you see so many “so and so failed to comment”s in newspapers. It’s completely fine that WSJ wanted to share this article, but they should have at least sought out an opposing opinion.

    Instead of banning books, parents should try to read the hard ones with their teens—they might learn something about each other.

  7. Now we’re all fighting to breathe through the bubble wrap being wound around our society. I’m very tired of all these ‘expert’ opinions all wanting to let me know my every decision will imperil my childrens futures, the planet’s health or further encourage Charlie Sheen unless I take their advice.

    Whatever shall I do?

    Oh, yeah, I’ll roll the dice and figure it out for myself. I’ll talk to people I know and trust and see what they think. I’ll take a chance and read the book, see the movie, buy the wine and experience it all for myself.

    And if I make a mistake, great. ‘Cause that’s how I learn, by making mistakes. The world won’t end because my daughter read a book I don’t like or agree with. Her life won’t be ruined by it either. She’s tougher and smarter than that.

    Thanks anyway WSJ. I think I will safely ignore your literary reviewers the same way I ignore movie critics. And don’t get me started on the parenting advice…

  8. Thank you Novel Novice for bringing to light this OBSURD article and the predjudices that it includes toward the YA community. As you stated, this is not the first such article written on this subject and unfortunately will not be the last, but it is the YA authors that we must continue to support by bringing to light the TRUTH so that what they bring to others will continue. Thanks to all the authors, YA community, and Novel Novice for your efforts in standing up for what its right

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