If you pay any attention to any literary blogs or newsites at all, you will probably have heard about the “controversy” that’s been raging over Laurie Halse Anderson’s novel Speak. I will not link to any of the other posts on the subject, except these two: Laurie Halse Anderson’s Post and a round-up by the wonderful Sierra Godfrey. That should be plenty of info for folks still not clued in to understand the situation. (I only came across is this morning, but that’s because I’m 410 posts behind according to my googlereader.)
Basically, some fellow in Republic, Missouri has tried to get three books banned from the districts curricula, including Speak, Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, and Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler. As a citizen of Missouri and a reader, I am extremely upset that this kind of crap still goes down in my home state. I have only personally read the Vonnegut book, though the other two are now on my enormously long TBR list. But that’s really irrelevant. I’m only using this kerfluffle as an example.
I hear all the time that YA isn’t “real” fiction. YA authors are often looked down upon, seen as inferior, treated as if they “couldn’t hack it” in adult fiction. After all, they’re only writing for children.
Now, to be fair, it’s not all YA authors–or even necessarily a large majority of them–who have had personal experiences with this. There’s an enormous amount of positive commentary on the internet. Many YA authors are extremely popular, and some are even famous. But I personally–while not being a YA author, or any other kind of author–have many times run across the afore-mentioned prejudice against YA fiction. People I know, especially many who went straight from MG to AF, have made all sorts of comments on how YA is “fluffy”, or lame, or shallow, or just poorly executed.
Shenanigans. 90% of everything is crap, but there’ still that 10% sticking it out. And books like Slaughterhouse Five and Speak stick like nothing else. If you follow the links above, you’ll find an enormous number of writers and readers exlaining how fiction, and especially YA fiction can and has saved lives. I’ve often been kept above water by the books I read, both in merely depressing and completely unbearable situations.
I’m not a YA reader. I’m just a general reader. But I count many YA books among my top favorites, and it isn’t because I read them when I wasn’t capable of understanding real world issues, or because I lacked the maturity to appreciate their irrelevance. It’s because they were damn good books and still are.
So keep up the fight YA authors, and when shit like this rolls around, remember that you’re not the only voices ready to speak up for your stories.