If you been within two feet of a computer this weekend, you've undoubtedly already read about or participated in the massive #YAsaves thingie that erupted in response to this Wall Street Journal article deploring a perceived Grittiness Overload in YA. YA, the article implies, ought to be cleaner, safer— you should be able to grab it off the shelf like one of those "eating right" TV dinners and be sure you won't be getting more than 6 grams of swear words and 300 calories of Depravity.
A huge number of readers and writers have already written eloquently about how YA literature has given them empathy, hope, a lifeline, or just good readin'.
One thing INTERN finds interesting about the whole ferschnuzzle is the question it raises about the role parents should (or shouldn't) play in vetting what their kids read.
INTERN is speaking as a person whom YA explicitly *didn't* save—but not for the reasons listed in WSJ.
In INTERN's case, INTERN's mom didn't stop her from reading YA books because they were too gritty. INTERN was shamed out of reading them because in her (rather snooty when it comes to reading) family, YA books weren't considered "real books". She remembers hiding her copies of Speak and Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging out of sheer embarrassment. Most of the time, she stuck to "adult" books just to be safe. To this day, INTERN feels a prickle of self-consciousness when she lingers in the YA section, and not just because she feels (looks?) like a creepy hobo with spiders in her hair.
INTERN graduated straight from Wolves of Willoughby Chase to House of Leaves. At fourteen, she could give you all sorts of tips on living in a boxcar, but had no idea what it meant when her best friend started cutting. At fifteen, she could talk your ear off about post-colonialism, but was as awestruck when one of the prefects at her school came out as if he'd declared he was a Martian. A little dose of YA—gritty or otherwise—would have been instructive in both situations.
Until the #YAsaves thing happened, INTERN had never given much thought to the ways in which her parents influenced her reading. But now that she thinks about it, the influence was there, and it was huge. The attitudes you absorb about certain kinds of books when you're a kid—whether it's "those books are too hard for me" or "those books aren't worth reading"—those attitudes really do end up shaping you as a reader, and by extension, as a person. When you go to a library with a kid and comment on her selections, you send a strong message, whether it's validation or disdain. Those messages don't just dissolve into thin air.
So INTERN really, really wants to know: Did your parents or parent-figure(s) vet your reading material? What kinds of things did they push you towards? What did they push you away from? How did your parents' attitudes about books and reading influence your own?