My friend Shaun Hutchinson has launched an interesting discussion today, based on an article in the Wall Street Journal. Before I launch into my take on the subject (or rather my offshoot discussion on the subject), I'll give you time to go check out the article itself as well as Shaun's post.
Cue Jeopardy music
Okay, everyone caught up now? If you decided not to burden yourself with reading the article, I'll quickly summarize. The author of the article is lamenting about the more dark nature of YA books these days and Shaun's post is a rebuttal (kind of). As you can see from my comment on Shaun's post, I tend to agree with his thoughts on the subject.
But this post is kind of an off-shoot discussion. From my perspective (as a parent AND a writer), the problem of whether YA books are too dark or not is irrelevant. The idea itself can be argued both ways, and there are understandable reasons for why (cultural and societal changes, acceptability of profanity as a norm by many, etc). What is more important to me is the discussion of parental responsibility.
See, I'm one of those people who feel parents are completely responsible for everything their child is involved with (to the age of 18 anyway). Even when the parent isn't aware of a particular situation (i.e. a kid making pipe bombs in the basement), the parent is still responsible. It's part of being a parent, whether we like it or not. It behooves us then to be deeply involved with whatever our child is doing, even when being that way might seem intrusive at times. I don't care if my sons are mad that I ask what they're reading every time they pick up a book. There is no expected right to privacy in my household (even though I do grant them a level of privacy all the time).
When it comes to what books my sons are reading, I know because I talk to them about their book choices. I ask them their thoughts on a given story. In other words, my kids and I communicate all the time. Strange concept these days maybe, but I believe in it whole-heartedly. And though it's possible they could be reading something I'm not aware of, I find it doubtful. You see, my kids actually like that I show interest in what they read and what their opinions are, so I don't believe they mind when I intrude on their choices.
I guess my point is that instead of bemoaning the dark nature of YA literature these days, we should be helping to guide parents towards being more actively involved with their kids. Authors will write whatever they want to write and publishers will continue to publish it, but if it's unacceptable reading for your kids and you have guided them away from it, it becomes a non-issue.
And speaking of Shaun, I am going to be actually meeting him in person (hopefully) when my family travels down to Florida next week. Yep, I'm going to be basking in the Florida sunshine starting next Sunday, and sometime during our 10 day visit (at Disneyworld, no less) I may be lucky enough to meet the incredibly talented Mr. Hutchinson. Maybe some of his awesome skills will rub off on me, huh? I don't know what I'm more excited about, getting to see Mickey with my kids or being able to introduce them to Shaun.
I'm hoping for a lively discussion of the topic at hand though, so feel free to step up on a soapbox in the comments. Even if you disagree with me, feel free to say so. I don't take anything personally. Oh, and if you haven't entered my contest for a free copy of Across The Universe, get over there and do so. Time is running out.