So I'm taking part in a new blog hop this week, you know what they say about variety and life. Thank God it's Friday is hosted over at GReads and the question for this week is:
YA Saves: How do you feel about the "dark" books filling the YA shelves today?
Ah dear, how long do you have? Now this question is in response to the article in the WSJ that caused uproar earlier this week, if you haven't yet read it and enjoy a dose of outrage with your morning coffee you can do so here
Well. Firstly, the 'concerned mother' mentioned in the article didn't appear to do any more than glance at the covers of the books before leaving in disgust at their 'darkness' (meaning, presumably, that they were all black). This can probably be blamed on the popularity of Twilight, the black and red gothy scheme has been emulated by many in the hopes of appealing to the Twilighters. Classic example being the Vampire Diaries books which, despite being published nearly 2 decades before Twilight was given a makeover to make them resemble the saga.
Now of course I know the article goes into more detail about the darker themes of YA not just the packaging, but I wanted to focus on this point first because I think it's crucial. What has the mother in this story done? Well, she's judged a book by it's cover of course. She's looked at these books and said "They're obviously too dark for my precious darling" had a paddy and walked out. If we're lucky she glanced over one of the blurbs, saw the word Vampire and vowed never to set foot in a YA section again.
I find this funny because in my opinion (and experience) the books with the darkest themes have the most unassuming colours. Take Twilight, Vampire Diaries etc. The covers are all dark, dramatic, vaguely gothic in terms of fonts etc. But really, these are the books with the least dark content. Sure, there's vampires, and werewolves, and the occasional bloody death but when we look past all that what are the messages of these books? Basically, it's about acceptance a lot of the time. Acceptance of races that aren't yours, they're about friendship, the triumph of good over evil, bravery etc. All the monsters in these books can be fought with swords, teamwork and a bit of confidence. The bad guys don't win in these books. The messages aren't really dark, the packaging is-and that's a publicity tool.
Then take some of the books with 'happier' (by which I mean less threatening seeming) covers.
If you were this girls mother, in this book shop with this attitude, chances are you'd choose one of these books instead. 'Cause look, there's no black on the cover! Not a vampire or gothic-style font in sight! This clearly is a book suitable for my 13 year old. One of them even has 13 in the title!! But what are these books about? They're about depression, isolation, suicide. These are the real demons of humanity, and they're demons that can't be fought with pointy sticks.
Now I'm not claiming that these books should be shunned in favour of vampire lit. Quite the contrary, I think (and you've read by blog recently you'll know this) that more books should deal with these darker sides of human life, because they eliminate ignorance, they promote understanding, empathy and openmindedness.
But really, think about it. If you were an overprotective parent like the one mentioned in the article, would you rather your teen read a book about mythical creatures that can be fought off with the help of a dashing and sarcastic hero or a book about real human suffering, the kind that can sometimes never be beaten?