I spent most the day in seminars so I didn't get to do much people watching. So far this has been very informative and I highly reccomend if you are interested in writing and get a chance, you should attend a seminar hosted Michael Stackpole.
Ok, moving on.
One of the things i attended today was a panel on Young Adult fiction, The Darkness: What is Appropriate for Teens. Four YA authors discussed their opinions and reaction to the New York Times article about teen fiction being too dark nowadays, and the follow up movement by Cheryl Rainfield against it. The issue raised by the panel is that young adult literature has been around for forty years. There has been trends through the ages blaming everything from rock n' roll to comic books to video games. Now it's books turn. The thing is, teenagers have built in censors that say "Don't do that." Admittedly sometimes they aren't as strong as they should be, but heck there are some adults I can think of that the same could be said about. The thing is that the teens predispositioned to act on these ideas would find them somehow, or would find something else. Blaming books, or tv, or anything else for that matter is a cop out.
One major problem addressed by the panel is that the author only looked at the books available in their local bookstore. That's like looking at a classroom of students and deciding since most of your students have red hair, most the children in the world have red hair. It's kind of absurd if you think about it.
The reality is our world is darker today. Teens are subjected to all manners of darkness and violence in their day to day lives. A child that has not been abused personally might know someone who has. I think it's ridiculous to blame fiction for modern problems. If you look closer at some of the very works she rips apart for their content, you find not a only a story that greatly appeals to teens, but also a message that they may relate to, maybe even need in their lives. don't blame the fiction. If you are concerned with what your teens are experiencing, you're gonna need to invest in a barrel. The truth of the matter is you can't protect them forever. The idea is to be proactive, stay ahead of the curve. Try to have discussions with your teen about the themes they are encountering in books you think might be too dark for them. And don't be afraid to read some of these books yourself. You never know what it might make you think.
The books aren't getting darker, they're just more plentiful. I hope the people who complain about The Hunger Games is aware that young teens are reading To Kill a Mockingbird, A Clockwork Orange, The Jungle and other titles in school as assignments.
How about you? Where do you think the burden of responsibility should fall when it comes to the dark content in teen fiction? The author? The parents? The publishing companies?