Sunday, 5 June 2011

Discussion/Rant: YA Saves//Why You Shouldn't Tell Me What to Read

Well, why you shouldn't tell Julie and other teens what to read (seeing as I'm not a teen). If you want to know why we're mad or how the whole YA saves thing started (#yasaves = trending world wide on twitter right), then go read this article.

This post is kind of long...I cover the ranting while Julie's part leans more towards the YA saves theme and she recorded an awesome video about the topic.

Lanna’s thoughts:

1. The thing that pisses me off most of all about articles like this and the people that agree with articles like this, is that fact that they don’t even READ the books that they’re condemning. Writing an article like that based on ignorance is ridiculous (reading the summary of a book =/= knowing what the book is really about).

They go on about violence and serious issues like suicide and self harm and things like that and how *oh-so-awful* it is that these things are being portrayed in books for teens…now, I would agree -- IF the books were glamorizing these issues, but they do not do that. Not even close. Books with serious subject matter are usually about understanding issues like that, they’re about the characters journey to overcome those problems and their process of getting better.

Books about abuse aren’t saying, “Oh hey, look, abuse is fun! Find a bad guy who will treat you badly and hurt you then date him and stay with him.”

Books about self harm and depression aren’t saying, “Oooh, look at these characters, look how much fun it is to want to die and how good it feels to drag a razor blade across your skin, look how cool and awesome it makes you!”

And those are just examples. The point is, teen books aren’t How To guides on their subject matter…they’re not teaching kids to be screwed up, if anything they’re doing the opposite. They’re cautionary tales. They show the effects that these issues can have on a person and their life.

Now, the less serious stuff…things like sex and swearing.

Sex happens. Lust is a natural thing that, sorry mums and dads, your teenagers WILL deal with at some point…they’re not going to spend the rest of their teenage years thinking that the opposite sex has cooties.

Reading about it in books isn’t going to corrupt their innocence and make them go shack up with the first guy that shows an interest in them, drop out of school and end up pregnant before they hit 18 while you cry your heart out about how, "It all went wrong when she read that darn YA book!" and how your kid was such a good girl/boy until they started reading YA.

Really…what is the worst that can happen from a teenager reading books that contain sex? Really? Think really, really hard about this one?

2. Second thing that pisses me off about people that write crap like that article: it doesn’t give teenagers enough credit.

If your kid is wanting to devour the YA section of your local book store then you probably have one of the good ones and you shouldn’t be worrying about them being out having sex with some guy when they’re probably more likely to be sitting in their room swooning over one that doesn’t even exist outside of the pages of the book they’re reading.

Also, someone in the comments of the article mentioned how the bad language in books will have a negative impact on teenagers…dude, seriously, it’s the vocabulary of the teenagers that DON’T like read that you need to be worrying about (and I assure you, there is nothing that they will read in the pages of a book from the YA section that they won’t hear--probably worse--just by walking out their front door and going to school).

And I’ve said this before, but teenagers don’t walk around with a Monkey See, Monkey Do mentality…or in this case Monkey Read, Monkey Do and if they did then that's because you didn't raise them well enough to know better, it's not an authors job to parent your child for you and teach them right from wrong (although some of their books do a damn good job of it). Just because it happens in a book doesn’t mean they’re going to go out and do it themselves (and if they do, it sure as hell won’t be because they read about it in a book).

Don't underestimate your kids, give them a bit more credit.

3. Third thing that pissed me off about this article in particular: the whole Now vs. Then comparison.

Yes, things in books were a lot tamer back when she was a teenager or even earlier than that…but that’s because the world used to be a lot more conservative.

People are a lot more open minded now than they used to be and this is a good thing. Books may have been tamer 50 years ago…but things like racism, sexism and homophobia were a much bigger issue in reality. There weren’t books about teenage girls having sex because it was a taboo subject…there weren’t books about teenage girls coping with abusive relationships because it wasn’t talked about or judged in the same way.

Hell, back before there technically was a Young Adult catagory for books, the woman writing that article would've probably been expected to be a wife and mother whose opinion didn't count for much because she happened to have two XX Chromosomes and was lacking in the penis department. And yet she seems to think this was some sort of Golden Era for literature because the books were tamer....

4. Last thing: there’s nothing you’ll find in a YA book that you won’t find a worse or more extreme version of on the news and that is reality, not fiction and the Bible has everything the article complained about and more and that’s the thing these people think we should live our lives by.

They're complaining about violence. Turn on the many wars have teenagers been exposed to in the last decade? How many revolutions have they seen on the news in the past few months even? How about terrorist attacks? Murders? Rapes? Any other crimes?

Think back not that long ago...we found out Osama bin Laden had been killed and on the news, on the streets, people were throwing a party over the murder of a human being. A bad human being, yes, but a human being all the same. And someone in the comments was complaining how YA books will make kids desensitized to violence....

Sorry if any of this didn’t make much sense, headache + sleepy + ranting does not add up to = sense.


Julie's Thoughts

I spent a lot of time thinking about this before making the video and after making the video. And here's what I didn't get to say:

YA books have helped me in countless ways. Because YA books have brought me to the YA community. And...I don't know where I'd be without the community, but I'm willing to bet it'd be worse than this.

During the Speak Loudly campaign, I realized that how I felt around my dad's best friend wasn't right and I wasn't dirty because of that one time he ruined any relationship I had with him. It made me realize that if he ever puts me in a situation like that, I need to say something. 

I haven't had a good self esteem since I was 9 or so. Back when I still thought I was going to be a singer or a fashion designer and I'd just started writing. I've always been complimented for my smarts, but never for my talents or for my looks. Not since I was 9 and my parents was still in that "You're so adorable, I'll always say nice things to you" time. I've been bullied and put down since middle school started. I've gained weight.

I'm so rarely comfortable and happy with myself. But since getting involved with the YA community, I've become more comfortable and accepting of who I am. I sometimes even think that I look pretty or beautiful. Sometimes I can even get myself to sexy for a moment or two. I've started to think that maybe I'm talented and maybe I can be a writer some day in the far off future. But without YA, there'd be no community to help me with that.

I also started reading YA at one of my darkest points in life. At age 10, I came very close to attempting suicide. The only thing that stopped me was knowing how much my family would miss me and knowing that Boy (who was probably under 1 at the time) would never know his big sister and how much she loved him. Writing this post and thinking of Boy not knowing me and me not being here with him now has me hysterically crying while I type.

But I started reading YA when I was 11 or 12 and I've never gotten so bad. As I've gotten older, things have gotten harder and now I have a community of bloggers and authors and best friends who won't LET me get that dark. And I sometimes the idea of cutting will flash through my head, but I never go through with it. I've learned that no matter how bad it seems, I'll never need that. I don't need to be dependent on something like that.

YA has taught me lessons that I can't learn in school. How to learn about a friend being gay or transgender or whatever it may be without letting it effect a friendship or without being shocked or offending. Whenever someone comes out to me, I'm able to just shrug and say "That's who you are and it doesn't change the fact that I love you" and we move on. I wouldn't know about people being banished to Siberia during World War II. I wouldn't know what it was like in India for the people there after the 2006 tsunami. I wouldn't know that all of the feelings I've bottled up need to be released and I wouldn't have decided that when I graduate, just before I leave, I plan to write "confessions" for some people in my life to read. I wouldn't have been able to help my friend who was abused. I wouldn't know that one of my friends probably has an eating disorder and I wouldn't know how to try and help her without confronting her and potentially destroying our relationship and making things worse.

Without YA I wouldn't have people to turn to when it seems like nobody else can listen. People like Lanna and Harmony and Brent and Myra McEntire and Lisa DesRochers and Stefne Miller and Suzanne Lazear and Mitali. I wouldn't have so many people who can make me laugh every day. I wouldn't have people to help me with homework and critique my writing and help me get in the Top 20 for a writing contest. I wouldn't have people who can listen to what I say about the "serious stuff" and GET it. Without YA, I might not even KNOW about the serious stuff.

I wouldn't be who I am without YA. I wouldn't see the world the way I do and I wouldn't see religion the way I do. Nothing would be the same and the world would be a smaller place. Maybe my room would be cleaner and I'd get to bed at a decent time but I think a messy room and being tired often is alright considering all the good things.



  1. Thank you for sharing this with us. This whole post is really intelligent and emotional, and does an awesome job of explaining the problems with that article. Even though I respected you already, my respect has increased since seeing this post.

  2. Way to Speak out and show how important YA lit is to teens!

  3. Absolutely amazing post. Well done and hugs to the you all.

  4. Alanna and Julie thank you for sharing. Alanna you made some very valid and important points and Julie your post was extremely touching. I'm sorry you have had to go through all that, nobody should have to. I'm just glad that you are at a point of you life where you have wonderful people to turn to and who will always be there for you.

  5. Julie, you *are* beautiful. I'm so glad YA has given you those moments when you can say that about yourself. Even if they are just small moments, once a year. They're still meaningful.

    Love you!


  6. Both great posts. Thank you for sharing.hop

  7. Great responses to the article. (The pics accompanying the rant are particularly amusing.)

    Julie's video and commentary are so heartfelt and moving. Thank you for sharing that with us.

  8. I love both of you <3

    I'm so happy to have meet you :)
    And you better be saying that about yourself ALL the time

  9. Lanna and Julie,

    Amazing post.

    Lanna's arguments made me laugh *and* growl with anger and Julie's touching vlog and post brought tears to my eyes. Thank you both. :)

    Paranormal Author E.J. Stevens
    From the Shadows

  10. Excellent post. Your passion really comes through, which is what we need to see from more readers. It seems like people are letting articles and opinions fill them with fear before they think about and consider what YA really does for teens. I think you were brave here and put it perfectly!

  11. Julie - you ARE beautiful. Don't even think you aren't because you are.

  12. Alanna - Thank you for sharing all your feelings.

  13. Omygosh, thank you for addresing the fact that parents shouldn't underestimate thier kids! I'm about to be a freshman in high school and that article made me feel so insignifigant and puny like I had no mind of my own! It made it seem like all I cared about was swearing, sex, drugs, cutting, blah, blah, blah. And that is so far from true! I like how you adress that yes, kids do have minds! we are not stupid, people! Haha. Loved your post! Thank you!

    you can read MY rant here at

  14. Well done -- a very well-reasoned and poignant post, and a powerful counterpoint to the WSJ writer. Of all the things for Ms. Gurdon to be railing against! YA books?! Unlike video games, movies and the vast, dark underbelly of the Googlesphere...YA novels provide context, balance, and (almost always) a moral center. From my perspective, both as an author and avid reader, one of my favorite things about YA books is that deliver authenticity like few (if any) genres. Whether tackling emotional issues or simply providing escapism or humor, YA lit offers friendship, support and guidance -- and a reminder that the reader is not alone in his/her feelings. And how can anyone question the value of that? Bravo Lanna and Julie!

  15. What an amazing post-- so thoughtful and emotional and honest. Julie, I think you're completely brilliant. I write my blog for young adults like you and I truly hope you never, ever give up on your writing. You have a lot of great things to say!!

  16. Although I agree with all that is stated here, I think it´s importnat to say that this is a generation gap situation/problem that should also be treated with respect and understanding for the mothers who are struggling to understand. Consider the fact that many of your mothers were not allowed to read these kind of books and so now, they may see them as scary or threatening. We need to educate parents too!



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