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shaldna
01-04-2013, 02:30 PM
So, in an article in the Daily Fail today we are told that YA novels about real life things such as cancer, suicide, illness, depression and sex shouldn't be read by, well, anyone.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2256356/The-sick-lit-books-aimed-children-Its-disturbing-phenomenon-Tales-teenage-cancer-self-harm-suicide-.html

Because obviously books about these subjects which connect with readers are just awful and all YA novels should be about rainbows and unicorns.

Mr Flibble
01-04-2013, 02:54 PM
It is the Daily Flail...

Some of the comments hearten me though. And yes, I'd let my teens read these books, though we'd discuss things too. Thing is sometimes kids are going to need to read about this stuff - about fictional characters where it's 'safe' as opposed to people they really know. Because, well, things like this do happen to kids.

PS: Won't someone think of the children! *clutches pearls*. (Come on, someone had to!)

kuwisdelu
01-04-2013, 02:55 PM
It's too bad their minds were too closed to understand this part:


'When young people are lost in such traumatic states, it's vital that they don't feel alone,' he says. 'Isolation makes the situation worse and their problems more entrenched. Novels and stories on the subject offer a sense of commonality and, most importantly, a sense of hope.'

Jo Zebedee
01-04-2013, 03:07 PM
Yes, i read this yesterday... I've only read one of the books mentioned (I'm not a big YA reader) which was Before I die, and it was obvious to me that the writer had read the blurb and not the book. I really enjoyed the book, not because of the subject matter, but because of how close Downham got to pov, there was good writing on show there.

In terms of whether our kids should read it; they were always around. Sometimes you had to hunt to find them, but sad stories for kids have always existed. Little Women? It took me a year to get over. And then there is stuff like Easy Connections/Freedom when I was a kid, which dealt with rape, and Forever which was certainly more adult than teen in some of its content (not by today's standards, admittedly, but then it was).

If kids don't understand it, they won't read it. If they're old enough to process it, they're old enough to read it. My parents never censored anything I read and assumed self-censorship would do the job, and they were right.

Plus, let's be honest; what can be between the pages of a book, a well thought out and written one like Downham's, that's going to be more harmful than what's on line? Bring on the challenging reads, I say, and let's encourage the kids to at least reach for good ones. :)

Kerosene
01-04-2013, 03:20 PM
Everyone should be good Christian folk and the read the bible, because it doesn't have anything bad in it... oh, wait.

Hasn't anyone ever heard the phrase: And the moral of the story is...?

slhuang
01-04-2013, 03:32 PM
My first instinct is to agree with everyone else. Read and let read. I read a lot of "heavy" stuff as a kid, and I learned a lot from it.

But just to play devil's advocate . . .

I'm a SFF reader, and I object to things like what I see as harmful trends in sexism and rape-as-titillation in certain types of fantasy. I feel like such tropes are reinforcing institutional attitudes about women that are harmful.

Now, I'm skeptical that the trend of "sick-lit" this article talks about is actually a problem. But I can sort of get why, if some of these books are jumping on a "trend" and are glamorizing things like self-harm or suicide rather than giving them a thoughtful treatment, some people might object to them. Because if the books are poor depictions of this material, they could be contributing to harmful attitudes those people see as problematic. Books do affect us.

Of course I wouldn't advocate any form of censorship, but it's possible there's worthy discussion material here. You know, if the trend exists, and if these books are badly done in ways that reinforce incorrect, harmful ideas. The way the article's written makes me doubt this is anything but a manufactured problem, as the books cited sound like they are thoughtful, but I haven't read any of them, so I can't say.

(Mind you, I have absolutely no objection to well-written fiction about subjects like self-harm or suicide, and I can think of no earthly reason why anyone would have a problem with people writing/reading about a subject like cancer.)

Jamesaritchie
01-04-2013, 07:53 PM
Hasn't anyone ever heard the phrase: And the moral of the story is...?

I have, but at least as often as not, the moral sucks dead bunnies.

Cyia
01-04-2013, 07:58 PM
It would appear that the article didn't generate quite the response the writer was hoping for. They've shut off the comments.

seun
01-04-2013, 08:00 PM
Water's wet.
The sky is blue.
The Daily Heil is full of shit.

Storm Surge
01-04-2013, 08:50 PM
Everyone should be good Christian folk and the read the bible, because it doesn't have anything bad in it... oh, wait.

I took Introduction to the Old Testament at a Catholic college which was populated by about 40% homeschooled kids. I wish you could have seen the looks on their faces when the prof started explain what some of that meant...

KimJo
01-04-2013, 09:48 PM
My daughter read Speak when she was 13. She told me afterward that it had saved her life, because she realized she wasn't the only one who had been through that type of experience.

I used to work in high schools. Some of the things those kids lived with brought me to tears on a regular basis. And having books available about kids dealing with similar things helped more than one of my students.

Yes, in some cases reading about self-harm might cause a teen to start self-harming. On the other hand, it might persuade them to stop, as happened with a teen I knew after she read the novel Cut. Reading about a teen in a depressing situation might depress readers, but it also might give them motivation to talk about what they're going through. Feeling alone is part of most teens' lives, I think, and even reading about a fictional character who's experiencing something similar can help a teen feel like they aren't so alone after all.

kuwisdelu
01-04-2013, 10:13 PM
Pretty much the whole reason I write is out of the vain hope that one day, eventually, I'll get published, and someone, somewhere will read my book and think "I'm not alone."

Phaeal
01-04-2013, 10:29 PM
Meh. I read all my mom's sex-and-violence-filled Book of the Month Club selections from the third grade on. Plus our high school book club featured such mild fare as A Clockwork Orange.

Never hurt me.

Um, right?

EMaree
01-04-2013, 10:37 PM
urgh. daily mail. urgh.

It's so hard to even find the energy to discuss their articles.

The article does a good job of ensuring Amanda Craig will never be a successful YA writer. But I'm sure she'll use the responses to this article as fuel for more articles (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2068344/Amanda-Craigs-horrifying-story-victim-online-bullying.html).

ironmikezero
01-04-2013, 11:14 PM
There will always be an element of society that will favor censorship - let's face it; that's what this is - "for their own good"... notwithstanding that the ability to think critically for oneself arises from the considered analysis of differing perspectives and opinions.

I've always thought these folks' true agenda was control - and in my view that makes them inherently dangerous.

dangerousbill
01-05-2013, 03:15 AM
So, in an article in the Daily Fail today we are told that YA novels about real life things such as cancer, suicide, illness, depression and sex shouldn't be read by, well, anyone.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2256356/The-sick-lit-books-aimed-children-Its-disturbing-phenomenon-Tales-teenage-cancer-self-harm-suicide-.html


If we want to expose our teenagers to all the horror, hate, and sickness in the world, get them a newspaper subscription.

Keeping that in mind, recall the history of Goethe's "The Sorrows of Young Werther", whose publication led to a wave of suicides in 1770s Germany.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sorrows_of_Young_Werther

Sunflowerrei
01-05-2013, 03:23 AM
I was one of those preteens who grew tired of reading The Babysitters' Club at 12 and jumped straight into romance novels and Readers' Digest versions of emphatically adult novels. I never read YA. I never felt compelled to go to the YA section to read about fictional teens dealing with similar issues.

But I don't think they should be kept from reading about death, loss, sex or suicide. Teens know a lot more than adults often think they do and every teen is different in what they can deal with, what they want to read, etc.

eyeblink
01-05-2013, 04:02 AM
Anyone who writes anything should have respect for their audience, and that goes double for YA. Your readers are as smart as you are. They can keep up. And they can cope with dark or edgy material. If they don't want to read about such things, they won't. If done properly, dark or tragic material is not morbid but cathartic, which is something the Ancient Greeks and Shakespeare knew but which seems to have escaped this Daily Mail writer.

One thing that the article doesn't mention is that the kind of fiction they're describing (including the language and sexual content) isn't aimed at twelve-year-olds. 14+ YA is a more distinct category to 12+ YA in the USA than it is here in the UK, but it certainly exists and is written by such as Melvin Burgess, Kevin Brooks, Jason Wallace and Meg Rosoff, amongst quite a few others.

I'm currently (re)writing a 14+ YA novel involving a sixth-form bisexual love triangle, and I confidently expect it to give the Daily Mail an apoplexy if and when it is published. After all, how dare teenagers have sex with each other, and how even more dare they have (gasp) gay sex?

Fantasmac
01-05-2013, 04:16 AM
I will never understand censors. I'm a parent and when the time comes, I will definitely monitor what my children consume because that's kind of the point of me hanging around all the time. But I can't ever imagine thinking that because something might be inappropriate for my family means it's inappropriate for EVERYONE EVA!

And I'm somebody who read some pretty crazy stuff as a kid. Belladonna (which is about a sex slave eventually taking revenge on her captor) in sixth grade, Pillars of the Earth (which has a pretty graphic rape scene) in seventh grade, tons of bodice-ripping romance novels from late elementary school on. I was a very precocious reader and to this day my mother doesn't know the whole of what I got my hands on, but I turned out not particularly drug addicted or sexually deviant so this really strikes me as not that big of a deal.

Rhoda Nightingale
01-05-2013, 04:41 AM
Ugh... "Sick-lit"--is that even a thing? Or did they just make that up? I thought we called those "issue books."

jjdebenedictis
01-05-2013, 09:02 AM
There seems to be a certain subset of people who believe that if kids never hear a whisper about the existence of sex, drugs, and violence, then those kids will magically never experience sex, drugs or violence. I'm pretty sure it doesn't work that way.

Alexie Sherman said it very powerfully in his article "Why the Best Kids Books Are Written In Blood (http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2011/06/09/why-the-best-kids-books-are-written-in-blood/)":
Does Ms. Gurdon honestly believe that a sexually explicit YA novel might somehow traumatize a teen mother? Does she believe that a YA novel about murder and rape will somehow shock a teenager whose life has been damaged by murder and rape? Does she believe a dystopian novel will frighten a kid who already lives in hell?

(snip)

They wanted to protect me from sex when I had already been raped. They wanted to protect me from evil though a future serial killer had already abused me. They wanted me to profess my love for God without considering that I was the child and grandchild of men and women who’d been sexually and physically abused by generations of clergy.

What was my immature, childish response to those would-be saviors?

“Wow, you are way, way too late.”

ohthatmomagain
01-05-2013, 09:21 AM
Everyone should be good Christian folk and the read the bible, because it doesn't have anything bad in it... oh, wait.

Hasn't anyone ever heard the phrase: And the moral of the story is...?

I'm reading through the Bible again right now, and yeah, it has some 'bad' parts in it lol. The moral is good though (God loves us no matter how bad we sin).

Anyway, I write clean/Christian/Inspirational fiction, but it's all real life and 'topical'. I don't think you should have to shy away from it. Life sure as heck isn't rainbows and unicorns :(

benbradley
01-05-2013, 10:19 AM
I thought the thread was going to be about this story:
Connecticut Town To Destroy Video Games And Violent Media
http://cbldf.org/2013/01/video-games-to-be-destroyed-in-connecticut-town/

In the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, a community organization in the nearby town of Southington is organizing a buyback program (http://www.ign.com/articles/2013/01/03/connecticut-town-will-collect-destroy-violent-games) to collect video games, DVDs, and CDs deemed to be violent. According to gaming site Polygon (http://www.polygon.com/2013/1/2/3828182/connecticut-town-holds-drive-to-collect-and-destroy-violent-video), after the collection on January 12, the media will be “snapped, tossed into a town dumpster and likely later incinerated.”But about reading: I was a teen and preteen many decades ago and I don't recall reading or having access to anything "inappropriate." I read a good bit of "clean" SF by writers such as Isaac Asimov, and I enjoyed it very greatly. It was (among other things) an escape from the bad times I was going through. It might have helped me to read some of this "bad" stuff, but I sure couldn't have discussed it with my parents. They were a large part of the problem.

On the other hand, there's this book. In college I read most of Heinlein's books including his juveniles (and was delighted when 20 pages into "The Rolling Stones/The Family Stone" I recalled that I had first read it around age 8 or 10). So when I heard about this book, which is compared to Heinlein's juveniles, I ordered it and looked forward to it. Within the first few pages the guys were sexually harrassing the girls in the high school hallways. It turned me off and I didn't read any further.
http://www.amazon.com/Higher-Education-Jupiter-Charles-Sheffield/dp/0812538900

KTC
01-05-2013, 06:19 PM
I already had a meltdown about this on Twitter. Sorry, Twitter followers. (-;

THE GUARDIAN HAD AN AWESOME COMEBACK ARTICLE (http://m.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/jan/04/sick-lit-young-adult-fiction-mail) TO THE IDIOT DAILY MAIL ARTICLE, WHICH I SUSPECT WAS A HIT-BAITER.

willietheshakes
01-05-2013, 07:04 PM
The Mail fucked with John Green...

Nerdfighters assemble!

crunchyblanket
01-05-2013, 07:29 PM
I already had a meltdown about this on Twitter. Sorry, Twitter followers. (-;

THE GUARDIAN HAD AN AWESOME COMEBACK ARTICLE (http://m.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/jan/04/sick-lit-young-adult-fiction-mail) TO THE IDIOT DAILY MAIL ARTICLE, WHICH I SUSPECT WAS A HIT-BAITER.

The best part of that article was that John Green linked to this as his response: The Daily Mail Song (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eBT6OSr1TI&feature=youtu.be&noredirect=1)

I was reading Stephen King aged 11. And I remember the min-shitstorm that got kicked up when our school library was found to have a copy of Judy Blume's 'Forever' - it'd been taken out more than almost any other fiction book in the library. Apart from 'Junk' by Melvin Burgess.

Alessandra Kelley
01-05-2013, 08:14 PM
I think as far as dark, realistic YA is concerned, the issue is very decidedly YMMV.

Keeping it from kids is foolish, at best. I say this even though, to be honest, I hated it when I was a kid.

But it's all a matter of taste, and sometimes stories like that can help people see that they are not alone, that there are other possibilities.

Hiding things away from youngsters, especially things about the darker aspects of real life, is more likely to harm them than help them.

ChristinaLayton
01-06-2013, 03:22 AM
This whole blog is absolute bullocks. That's all I have to say.

yayeahyeah
01-11-2013, 10:07 PM
Coming to this discussion rather late - but I've just looked at Amanda Craig's website.

Considering the article says that she won't even review "sick lit" because she feels so strongly about it, it's surprising to see What Katy Did and Little Women as two of her recommended books for children aged 10 - 12! From what I recall, illness was a major plot point in both books - surely their impressionable young minds can't cope with them!

Katie Elle
01-12-2013, 12:40 AM
This is just plain funny. Growing up in the 70s and 80s, young adult was pretty much synonymous with heavy handed stories about teens with cancer or doing drugs or some other social malady.

That or Judy Blume.

Instead we passed around Flowers in the Attic.

Alessandra Kelley
01-12-2013, 02:28 AM
This is just plain funny. Growing up in the 70s and 80s, young adult was pretty much synonymous with heavy handed stories about teens with cancer or doing drugs or some other social malady.

That or Judy Blume.

Instead we passed around Flowers in the Attic.

Yep. That's why I turned to science fiction, fantasy, and Dungeons and Dragons.

cmi0616
01-12-2013, 08:32 AM
I wouldn't go as far as to say that these books shouldn't be read by younger people, but I certainly understand where the author is coming from. Let's face it, these books (as well as books aimed at adults) glorify very harsh, sick realities.

Having watched a person very dear to me die of cancer less than a year ago, I can tell you that it's nothing like The Fault In Our Stars. Don't get me wrong, I thought that the book was great, very well written and such. But I don't think it makes the reality of dealing with a terminal illness as harsh as it actually is.

There's nothing cute or exciting or romantic about cancer. People who are terminally ill aren't generally as flippant about their condition nor as lively as Hazel seems to be in the book. The disease eats away at them until it eventually becomes them, and it's a very inglorious death, devoid of any sort of dignity or beauty.

So, can I see where teenagers might become confused by these books? Sure. And I think that's why it's important for parents to know what their children are reading, as well as what video games they're playing, as well as what they're watching on television. Not so that they can prohibit them from doing these things, but so they can have serious discussions with their children about the difference between fiction and reality.

frimble3
01-12-2013, 09:41 AM
Yep. That's why I turned to science fiction, fantasy, and Dungeons and Dragons.
And crime novels, and historicals, and Traveller (D&D in space).
When I was a teenager, the last thing I wanted to read about was teenagers. Especially teenagers with problems.

LJD
01-12-2013, 07:34 PM
When I was a teenager, the last thing I wanted to read about was teenagers. Especially teenagers with problems.

Me, too. I only read adult fiction, and I read a lot less than when I was a child.

muravyets
01-12-2013, 09:20 PM
I wouldn't go as far as to say that these books shouldn't be read by younger people, but I certainly understand where the author is coming from. Let's face it, these books (as well as books aimed at adults) glorify very harsh, sick realities.

Having watched a person very dear to me die of cancer less than a year ago, I can tell you that it's nothing like The Fault In Our Stars. Don't get me wrong, I thought that the book was great, very well written and such. But I don't think it makes the reality of dealing with a terminal illness as harsh as it actually is.

There's nothing cute or exciting or romantic about cancer. People who are terminally ill aren't generally as flippant about their condition nor as lively as Hazel seems to be in the book. The disease eats away at them until it eventually becomes them, and it's a very inglorious death, devoid of any sort of dignity or beauty.

So, can I see where teenagers might become confused by these books? Sure. And I think that's why it's important for parents to know what their children are reading, as well as what video games they're playing, as well as what they're watching on television. Not so that they can prohibit them from doing these things, but so they can have serious discussions with their children about the difference between fiction and reality.
That strikes me as an argument in favor of better YA books on such subjects, not as one related to the (idiotic) argument that YA books should touch on such subjects at all.


And crime novels, and historicals, and Traveller (D&D in space).
When I was a teenager, the last thing I wanted to read about was teenagers. Especially teenagers with problems.
I read Catch-22 when I was 8, whole book in a single afternoon.

Catch-22, as we all recall but perhaps the article writer doesn't because I'm not entirely convinced she reads all that much herself, is about war and contains foul language and scenes of death, depression, and violence, including pivotal scenes of a bloody death in a plane and a fight with a prostitute in a brothel. My mom saw me reading this big book in grandma's rocking chair. She said, "What are you reading?" I said, "Catch-22." She said, "I don't think you should read that. It will depress you." I said, "I'm halfway through it, and I'm not depressed yet." She said, "Okay, suit yourself."

The book did not depress me. It did, however, ruin me for many books earmarked for my age groups thereafter, through elementary and middle school. I was never much of a YA reader after that, though I would never refuse to read a book just because it was labeled for a particular age-group. I just found many books directed towards younger readers too teachy-preachy or else a little shallow or restricted in their emotional explorations.

In school, I complained bitterly about the books we had to read, and at home, my pleasure reading focused mostly on classic horror and anything to do with crime -- mysteries, hardboiled detectives, procedurals, etc.

Crime, violence, death, morality, justice, vengeance, insanity, illness, sex, fear, and finding ways to cope through all that have been the constant themes of my reading choices since childhood. And throughout childhood and teenage, I was consistently evaluated as rational, independent, and well-adjusted, although skeptical of and resistant to authority.

Now granted, that's anecdotal, but since I believe I'm an excellent example to follow (;)), I'll cite is as authoritative. And I'll point out that classic lit traditionally given to teens to read is full of such very challenging themes. Dickens is no slouch when it comes to exposing young people to abuse and injustice. Robert Louis Stevenson didn't flinch from violence. Crane, Conrad, etc., all them. I mean, seriously, why teach kids to read at all, if we don't want them reading about serious life issues? Why bother to write?

willietheshakes
01-14-2013, 04:10 AM
I wouldn't go as far as to say that these books shouldn't be read by younger people, but I certainly understand where the author is coming from. Let's face it, these books (as well as books aimed at adults) glorify very harsh, sick realities.

Having watched a person very dear to me die of cancer less than a year ago, I can tell you that it's nothing like The Fault In Our Stars. Don't get me wrong, I thought that the book was great, very well written and such. But I don't think it makes the reality of dealing with a terminal illness as harsh as it actually is.

There's nothing cute or exciting or romantic about cancer. People who are terminally ill aren't generally as flippant about their condition nor as lively as Hazel seems to be in the book. The disease eats away at them until it eventually becomes them, and it's a very inglorious death, devoid of any sort of dignity or beauty.

So, can I see where teenagers might become confused by these books? Sure. And I think that's why it's important for parents to know what their children are reading, as well as what video games they're playing, as well as what they're watching on television. Not so that they can prohibit them from doing these things, but so they can have serious discussions with their children about the difference between fiction and reality.

This is... Well, it's your opinion, I suppose.

I disagree with, well, all of it, actually.

Most crucially, though, are two points:
First, since when does fiction have to deal only with unvarnished, in your opinion, reality? It's fiction. Fiction. If you're looking for the bare facts, try non-fiction. Or perhaps documentaries.

Second, I think you're giving teens way too little credit. They're hardly fragile flowers, as easily confused as you seem to think. In fact, many of them are dealing with a lot more shit than a lot of adults.

cmi0616
01-14-2013, 08:26 PM
That strikes me as an argument in favor of better YA books on such subjects, not as one related to the (idiotic) argument that YA books should touch on such subjects at all.


Well, it isn't exactly, because, as I said, The Fault In Our Stars was an excellent book, and this is coming from somebody who doesn't typically read YA books. A realistic cancer book, in my opinion, would probably be very bad. It would be very repulsive and depressing and extremely monotonous, not to mention quite repetitive. For this type of story to work, cancer needs to be glorified, it must be romanticized and slightly deviant from the reality.

Which is why I said I can see where the author of the article is coming from. These books are aimed at very impressionable teenagers. Death, and more specifically, death by way of terminal disease is indisputably romanticized in these books, and one would be blind if one did not see where teenagers might get the wrong idea.

I maintain, however, that this doesn't mean teenagers shouldn't read the books. In this day and age, we as writers and readers should be thankful that teenagers are reading at all! It is, however, a reason for parents to have a serious discussion with their children about the differences between fiction vs reality.

Rhoda Nightingale
01-14-2013, 10:20 PM
A realistic cancer book, in my opinion, would probably be very bad. It would be very repulsive and depressing and extremely monotonous, not to mention quite repetitive. For this type of story to work, cancer needs to be glorified, it must be romanticized and slightly deviant from the reality.


Have you read Patrick Ness's A Monster Calls? That's a YA book with cancer as a huge theme. It's realistic on some levels, fantastical in others, and absolutely devastating. Not monotonous, definitely depressing and repulsive in places, but by no means "bad."

willietheshakes
01-14-2013, 10:49 PM
Well, it isn't exactly, because, as I said, The Fault In Our Stars was an excellent book, and this is coming from somebody who doesn't typically read YA books. A realistic cancer book, in my opinion, would probably be very bad. It would be very repulsive and depressing and extremely monotonous, not to mention quite repetitive. For this type of story to work, cancer needs to be glorified, it must be romanticized and slightly deviant from the reality.

So what?

Is it fiction's sole role to realistically inform?

Let's take sex. Sex is fun, and pleasurable, and awesome, but it's also hilariously funny, occasionally uncomfortable, sometimes painful, fraught with stress, and a bevy of often surprising sounds, smells and flavours.

Is it a requirement of fiction that every sex scene include all of that, regardless of how it affects the work as a whole?



Which is why I said I can see where the author of the article is coming from. These books are aimed at very impressionable teenagers. Death, and more specifically, death by way of terminal disease is indisputably romanticized in these books, and one would be blind if one did not see where teenagers might get the wrong idea.

Those impressionable kids...

I mean, they read The Fault in Our Stars and they're all gonna want to have cancer!



I maintain, however, that this doesn't mean teenagers shouldn't read the books. In this day and age, we as writers and readers should be thankful that teenagers are reading at all! It is, however, a reason for parents to have a serious discussion with their children about the differences between fiction vs reality.

I agree with this, but again, so?

You have a very personal, very difficult, experience with cancer. No, The Fault in Our Stars doesn't capture that experience. It captures a different experience. It's a novel. That's what it does.

veinglory
01-14-2013, 10:59 PM
There is a degree to which an author should, in my opinion, be aware of how their work might be interpreted as real--especially if they are taking credit for explaining life's realities to kids.

You can't after all, have it both ways: yes they should read it because these things are real and happen to people *and* I will portray it in a way that would never actually happen and which contains factually inaccurate material that is demonstrably wrong.

kuwisdelu
01-14-2013, 11:04 PM
Fiction should always strive to be true. What's true isn't necessarily what's realistic.

cmi0616
01-15-2013, 02:03 AM
So what?

Is it fiction's sole role to realistically inform?

Let's take sex. Sex is fun, and pleasurable, and awesome, but it's also hilariously funny, occasionally uncomfortable, sometimes painful, fraught with stress, and a bevy of often surprising sounds, smells and flavours.

Is it a requirement of fiction that every sex scene include all of that, regardless of how it affects the work as a whole?


That's exactly the point I was making, perhaps you should take the time to read the comment I was responding to. Fiction doesn't have to be 100% realistic. But when you are dealing with younger people, you assume an ethical responsibility absent in adult literature. Whether you like to admit or not, teenagers are influenced by what they read, as well as what they watch on tv, as well as what types of video games they play. As somebody who is currently studying psychology, I can tell you that studies back this up time and time again. I would be happy to PM you some of the PDF files of said studies if you'd like.

It seems convenient that you flat ignored the second half of that part, which said a realistic cancer book (especially one with young adult MC's) might be very bleak to the point of being boring. Good fiction needs to romanticize some things, it needs to be a bit divorced from reality. I said it once and I'll say it again, The Fault In Our Stars was an excellent book, I'm not claiming otherwise. At the same time however, that doesn't negate the influence it might exert over younger readers.



Those impressionable kids...

I mean, they read The Fault in Our Stars and they're all gonna want to have cancer!
They might not want cancer, but death as a result of cancer is certainly something that is glorified in the book. That's actually more or less what I said, albeit in slightly different words. Please make sure you read carefully what I wrote: "Death, and more specifically, death as a result of terminal disease, is indisputably romanticized in these books."

The fact is that today, teenagers are diagnosed with depression more than they have been during any other point in history. And with that depression comes higher suicide rates amongst today's adolescent population. These books have the potential to make death appealing to impressionable, mentally unstable young minds.


[in response to my last paragraph] I agree with this, but again, so?

You have a very personal, very difficult, experience with cancer. No, The Fault in Our Stars doesn't capture that experience. It captures a different experience. It's a novel. That's what it does.So? So, while I don't think teenagers should be prohibited from reading these book (nor do I think that they are "evil") as the article suggests, I do think it is important that the young people these books are aimed at know the difference between fiction and reality. I'm not the type to say media is solely culpable with regards to social issues; I wouldn't even say it's a major factor. I do think, however, that anyone who doesn't see that media holds some influence, especially amongst younger people, is fooling themselves.

And the next time you write a condescending, smug response to one of my comments, I implore you to carefully read the context in which they were written. Thank you.

cmi0616
01-15-2013, 02:06 AM
Second, I think you're giving teens way too little credit. They're hardly fragile flowers, as easily confused as you seem to think. In fact, many of them are dealing with a lot more shit than a lot of adults.

And I'm starting to think that we may indeed be in the presence of such a teenager :)

willietheshakes
01-15-2013, 02:39 AM
And I'm starting to think that we may indeed be in the presence of such a teenager :)

It's nice to know that condescending and smug responses run both ways.

For the record? Far from a teen, as the links in my sig will attest.

As for the rest? We'll have to agree to disagree.

Rhoda Nightingale
01-15-2013, 03:26 AM
@cmi: It might behoove you to peruse this thread (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=71220) for a while. You've already admitted you're not all that familiar with YA fiction. It sounds like you have a beef specifically with the way cancer was dealt with in one particular book--which is understandable. I haven't read it so I can't comment on it, but please, please keep in mind that teens aren't dumb, and most of the people who write for them know that.

Wilde_at_heart
01-15-2013, 03:48 AM
I read The Wasp Factory at 14. Even today at well over twice that age, *cough*, I cannot think of a less appropriate book for a teenager to read, yet I turned out fine...

I think :D

ladybritches
01-15-2013, 05:46 AM
None of my friends in high school made it through unscathed by cancer. Reading about it may be therapeutic for some. I think most teenagers who read for fun are probably mature enough to decide on their own what they can or cannot handle.



Yeah, this. ^

I learned about cancer at the ripe old age of twelve, when a friend died from aplastic anemia. My daughter learned about it in elementary school, when her aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer and lost all her hair from the chemo. My cousin's little boy learned about cancer at age 3, when he was diagnosed with leukemia.

Point is, our kids are living this shit, so how is keeping it out of books going to protect them? Reading about the subject helps them make sense of it all.

cmi0616
01-15-2013, 06:11 AM
@cmi: It might behoove you to peruse this thread (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=71220) for a while. You've already admitted you're not all that familiar with YA fiction. It sounds like you have a beef specifically with the way cancer was dealt with in one particular book--which is understandable. I haven't read it so I can't comment on it, but please, please keep in mind that teens aren't dumb, and most of the people who write for them know that.

But that's where you've got it all wrong!

I'll say it for the third time on this thread: I don't have any sort of problem or "beef" with the way caner was depicted. It was a great book, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Hell, I recommend it.

What I was saying, quite simply, is that the author of the article brings up a valid point. Teenagers are influenced by their media intake. This has been the subject of probably hundreds (if not thousands) of psychosocial studies, and time and time again, findings indicate that teens can be easily mislead by such books. I don't think it's fair to dismiss this point as "idiotic." I wonder, since you are not the first person on this thread to make that mistake, if I'm not being clear enough. It was a terrific, fictional book. It was not a realistic depiction of cancer, which is okay, because it's fiction. I do see, however, where teens may get the wrong idea. That's really all I'm saying.

Where I disagree with the author, as I'll say yet again, is with his argument that these books shouldn't be read simply because they posses a potential to mislead younger people. That assertion is idiotic. As I've said before, what's important is for parents to have discussions with their children about reality vs fiction.

Also, an important distinction--I don't think teens are "dumb" by any stretch of the imagination. I have no doubt that there are a great many teens out there smarter than most adults. I would never claim otherwise. What I said, is that teens are impressionable. That's simple common sense. I know I was impressionable as a teen, I know that my friends when I was a teen were pretty impressionable, and I know that there are various empirical psychological studies that indicate teens are impressionable.

kuwisdelu
01-15-2013, 06:19 AM
Where I disagree with the author, as I'll say yet again, is just because there's the potential in these books to mislead teens, that doesn't mean teens should stop reading them altogether. That assertion is idiotic. As I've said before, what's important is for parents to have discussions with their children about reality vs fiction.

I'm pretty sure teens are well past the stage of "reality vs fiction."

What you're really talking about is the nature of truth and perspective, which is a much more complicated and more subtle issue than reality vs fiction, and one with which adults struggle as well.

Realism has very little to do with truth when it comes to fiction. Please don't accidentally conflate the two. It sounds like your real complaint is that the book didn't ring true to your perspective and experience, rather than simply being unrealistic, which it might be, too, but which isn't the primary flaw, since you claim it was still good, so it apparently never broke your suspension of disbelief.

AW Admin
01-15-2013, 06:25 AM
People

Please attempt to be courteous.

It's not required that everyone in the world want to read, write, publish or ingest the same books.

Stop taking potshots at each other and talk about the books.

If you have a problem with a post, the http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/buttons/report.gif button works astonishingly well.

If you have a problem with a poster, you're more than welcome to put them on Ignore (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=208010).

I'm going to read a nice traditional tale about a father selling his daughter to an enemy soldier; I think it's called Troilus and Cressida.

cmi0616
01-15-2013, 06:28 AM
Realism has very little to do with truth when it comes to fiction. Please don't accidentally conflate the two. It sounds like your real complaint is that the book didn't ring true to your perspective and experience, rather than simply being unrealistic, which it might be, too, but which isn't the primary flaw, since you claim it was still good, so it apparently never broke your suspension of disbelief.

I don't think it has anything to do with suspension of disbelief. A story like this, while highly unlikely to occur in reality, could very well occur. It's no Harry Potter, to say the least. However, it is a highly unlikely story, and I can't imagine that cancers depiction in the book is by any means the norm.

You don't think there's any validity to what the author is saying? Not even in his/her initial assertion that younger people are more easily influenced by their media intake? Because that's all I'm saying.

muravyets
01-15-2013, 06:48 AM
I don't think it has anything to do with suspension of disbelief. A story like this, while highly unlikely to occur in reality, could very well occur. It's no Harry Potter, to say the least. However, it is a highly unlikely story, and I can't imagine that cancers depiction in the book is by any means the norm.

You don't think there's any validity to what the author is saying? Not even in his/her initial assertion that younger people are more easily influenced by their media intake? Because that's all I'm saying.
This wasn't addressed to me, but I'll jump in to give my opinion. I do not think the author's point has any validity. I don't agree that teens are necessarily more influenced by their media intake, nor that we can predict how they will be influenced, let alone how much. But I actually think her point in the article really doesn't have that much to do with any real question of how malleable teens' outlooks may be. I think she is making an argument in favor of censorship based on age group, and I think she may even be promoting a notion of extended infantilization of media and entertainment in order to prevent troublesome thinking. Or at least contributing to such an idea.

My own opinion of her argument is that it is not only logically invalid, it is possibly even unethical. Teens are not children. They are certainly not infants. They do not need to be cosseted in a Teletubbies world of nice, soft things with no hard edges. They need to be learning how to think like adults, and absorb adult experiences, and react to difficult things with responsibility and maturity as adults are expected to do. They need to start learning how to explore, understand, control and cope with their own difficult thoughts and feelings.

Your argument seems to be that teens can be harmed by unrealistic depictions of harsh things. That is a disputable point. I would dispute it, as others have. But I say that is not related to the article author's argument, because she is not criticizing The Fault In Our Stars for being an unrealistic depiction of cancer. She's criticizing it for being about cancer at all. She is arguing against the use of such topics in YA literature at all.

There is a legitimate discussion to be had about whether publishers and authors have a responsibility not to be exploitative with topics that can be extremely damaging to real people's lives, such as suicide, eating disorders, addiction, etc. But I do not believe this author is engaging that discussion because she does not explore the issue. She merely denounces the current trend for such books. In other words, she's not arguing, as you have, for a better depiction of harsh themes such as cancer. She's saying that all books like The Fault in Our Stars are bad for kids.

cmi0616
01-15-2013, 06:57 AM
This wasn't addressed to me, but I'll jump in to give my opinion. I do not think the author's point has any validity. I don't agree that teens are necessarily more influenced by their media intake, nor that we can predict how they will be influenced, let alone how much. But I actually think her point in the article really doesn't have that much to do with any real question of how malleable teens' outlooks may be. I think she is making an argument in favor of censorship based on age group, and I think she is promoting a notion of extended infantilization of media and entertainment in order to prevent troublesome thinking.


Well, you're entitled to your opinion vis-a-vis the impressionability of teenagers, even if it does go up against a lot of empirical evidence to the contrary. Although in fairness, not all studies are conclusive and there are even a few that disagree with my viewpoint.

Look, I can't debate five people at once, and so I'll leave it at this: All I've said is that I can see where the author is coming from. He/she has a valid point. I do not believe that her point justifies prohibiting younger people from reading these books. I think the responsibility, as it almost always does and should fall where children are concerned, falls on the parents. Make sure you monitor what your children watch/read/play with, not so you can ban them from doing those things, but so you can have discussions with them about those things. Not because children are "dumb" but, at least according to studies conducted by people much smarter and more educated than myself, because they are impressionable.

I honestly do not think that anything in the above sentences is so controversial. But obviously, I have ruffled some feathers, and my apologies if what I said disagrees with/upsets you.

muravyets
01-15-2013, 07:56 AM
It doesn't upset me at all. I have no problem with people disagreeing with me, especially about things like this.

kuwisdelu
01-15-2013, 08:00 AM
I don't think it has anything to do with suspension of disbelief. A story like this, while highly unlikely to occur in reality, could very well occur. It's no Harry Potter, to say the least. However, it is a highly unlikely story, and I can't imagine that cancers depiction in the book is by any means the norm.

So if it is realistic, why would there be any need for teenagers to need a talk about reality vs fiction? I think you missed the point of what I was saying.


You don't think there's any validity to what the author is saying? Not even in his/her initial assertion that younger people are more easily influenced by their media intake? Because that's all I'm saying.

Depends what you mean. I don't think teenagers are going to have a problem discerning reality from fiction. What's "true" and what isn't is a whole different matter. For example, I think lots of teens go through a phase where Ayn Rand makes a lot of sense, but they grow out of it. I did. But then, there are still many adults who think Ayn Rand makes a lot of sense...

thebloodfiend
01-15-2013, 08:23 AM
I'd really like to see these studies, tbh.

Impressionable people will always be impressionable. Trying to protect them from themselves is like trying to solve world peace, IMO.

Granted, while I agree that, on average, some teens are more impressionable than some adults due to development and puberty and whatever, I don't think that author has any credibility to her point. She's just doing the same wild flailing that the PTC does—"think of the babies! protect them from sex and gays and bad, horrible things like cancer and ED's!"

If teens decide to become drug/sex addicts who dwell in abusive relationships and decide to off themselves after they read my book, well, they're probably the same kids who thought they could ride broomsticks off the Grand Canyon when they were eight and the same adults who watch Eat Pray Love and think they're going to be able to wander through India recklessly and find hot sex and love and wisdom. No amount of what I could write would ever change the bad parenting behind that.

But why are we even discussing a Daily Fail article? I think we could get more credible opinion pieces from the Onion. Ah well—excuse me while I go and get cancer, develop an eating disorder, and decide to get raped—all for the glorification and deification seen by the characters in YA.

I really think people need to read YA, rather than just two or three popular books, before they start talking about it like they're experts or something. It really pisses me off. It'd be like me talking about Ancient China or something.

MumblingSage
02-12-2013, 10:41 PM
I already had a meltdown about this on Twitter. Sorry, Twitter followers. (-;

THE GUARDIAN HAD AN AWESOME COMEBACK ARTICLE (http://m.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/jan/04/sick-lit-young-adult-fiction-mail) TO THE IDIOT DAILY MAIL ARTICLE, WHICH I SUSPECT WAS A HIT-BAITER.

My only beef with that article is that the writer seems to think the series that culminates with the Battle of Hogwarts (and all the child casualties thereof--and beloved adult casualties--etc etc) is somehow escapist and sanitized.

Then again, I've wasted a perfectly good Christmas Eve once trying to convince an aunt that The Hunger Games was not inappropriate for children.

I trust kids to generally find the books they like. Some of them will like books with weighty thems, some will like adult books, some will get sick of all the misery and despair and occasionally stop to take refuge with Mo Willems books until they're eighteen (*waves*). If kids are...interested in seems the wrong word, but curious about? thoughtful about? cancer, they should have a choice of books to go to on it.

That said, all writing sends a message. It's communication, after all. And I don't believe readers outgrow an age of impressionability--we're all impressionable to some extent. Whether this means writers have a duty to not glamorize self-harm, abuse, harmful attitudes and sterotypes, is a discussion for all fiction, not just YA. At least YA authors are thinking about what they say.

Finis
02-13-2013, 01:16 PM
Eh, I liked Paper Towns better than A Fault in Our Stars. Which romanticizes running away from home. Probably more dangerous to the value voters than romanticizing cancer.

I tend to react to the first amendment the way many people react to the second one.

"You can have my books when you pry them from my cold, dead fingers."


So that pretty much sums up my view on what teenagers should or should not be allowed to read.

JustSarah
02-13-2013, 03:17 PM
One thing I've also had to sort of learn, there is a difference between writing middle grade and young adult. I just mentioned middle grade over say primary school as late middle grade is a closer comparison.

maryrider
02-21-2013, 11:28 AM
Guess they shouldn't tell their kids what really happened in The Little Mermaid... (I know it wasn't a novel, just using it as an example to the make believe universe society wants kids to be brought up in.)

Guess what? Sheltering your kids doesn't make the bad things in life go away. If anything it creates more problems in the "denial" category.

Bartholomew
02-21-2013, 12:51 PM
I...

I always kind of thought The Daily Mail was the UK version of the Onion.

It's a serious news site?