Gurdon is a Children’s Book Reviewer, for the Wall Street Journal.  This article is adapted from a speech delivered at Hillsdale College, March 12, 2013  In part she wrote:

“On June 4, 2011, the number one trending topic on Twitter was the Anthony Weiner scandal.  I happen to remember that, because the number two topic on Twitter that day-almost as frenzied, thought a lot less humorous-had to do with an outrageous, intolerable attack on Young Adult literature…by me. Entitled “Darkness Too Visible,” my article discussed the increasingly dark current that runs through books classified as YA, for Young Adult-books aimed at readers between 12 and 18 years of age-a subset that has, in the four decades since Young Adult became a distinct category in fiction, become increasingly lurid, grotesque, profane, sexual, and ugly. “

“Books show us the world, and in that sense, too many books for adolescents act like funhouse mirrors, reflecting hideously distorted portrayals of life.  Those of us who have grown up understand that the teen years can be fraught and turbulent-and for some kids, very unhappy-but at the same time we know that in the arc of human life, these years are brief.  Today, too many novels for teenagers are long on the turbulence and short on a sense of perspective.  Nor does it help that the narrative style that dominates Young Adult books is the first person present tense—“I, I, I, and Now, now, now.  Writers use this device to create a feeling of urgency, to show solidarity with the reader and to make the reader feel that he or she is occupying the persona of the narrator.  The trouble is that the first person present tense also erects a kind of verbal prison, keeping young readers in the turmoil of the moment just as their hormones tend to do.  This narrative style reinforces the blinkers teenagers often seem to be wearing, rather than drawing them out and into the open.”

She went on to talk about these “dark” books and how they affect our children.  “when some people criticized her review and a school librarian in Idaho wrote to her colleagues in Gurdon’s defense:  “You are naïve if you think young people can read a dark and violent book that sits on the library shelves and not believe that that behavior must be condoned by the adults in their school lives.”  She said, “What kind of books are we talking about?  Let me give you three examples–but with warning……..”

In other words, what is in the library under Young adult, might not be what you want your kids to be reading.  They will find out soon enough the bad side of life and what happens.  She reviews the three books, and basically they are about cruelty, rape, kidnapping and drugs and horror.  That’s just in one book.  Another consist of explicit and obscene descriptions by a 17 yr  old female narrator….In other words, even you might not want to waste your time living in the dark when there are such joyous and encouraging books to read.  I believe this applies also to T. V. and some of the shows aimed at young adults.  We wonder why there is so much death, suicide, bullying in our world now?  She suggests that some kids are actually living these kinds of lives, and if so, it would be much better for them to be reading interesting, exciting and encouraging books that give them something to look forward to.  If young people who are enjoying a good life, read these books about cruelty, rape, etc. they are more likely to think they are missing out on something, and give it a try.


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