Daily Mail article causes stir in YA community: are YA books really just “full of gloom”?

wewereliarsIn case you didn’t already see, the Daily Mail published an article today entitled, “Child abuse. Sex changes. The oh so right-on obsessions taking the joy out of children’s books“. To even take a quick peek at this article, you can quickly deduce how uncomfortable the writer is with some of the heavier themes which crop up in YA, taking particular issue with ‘We Were Liars’ by E. Lockhart.

Addressing the Waterstones Children Book Prize 2016 shortlist, which includes ‘I’ll Give You The Sun’ and ‘The Art of Being Normal’ said, “Gloom, doom, family breakdown and gender uncertainty. All these are real and worthy subjects and I’m not suggesting children should be feather-bedded and kept away from them. But they are not the totality of life in the 21st century, yet that is the picture we seem to be presenting to the next generation. It’s as if we’ve lost all sense of balance.”

Some may immediately read this as a criticism of YA dealing with grittier issues that some may find to be “too mature” for younger readers, but that is not the case. It continues, “Of course, if novels such as this help improve understanding and reduce prejudice, that’s wonderful. If it makes one person feel less alone, that’s to be embraced.

But this fashion makes for such a narrow range of reading. It’s not just those questioning their sexual identity who know what it is to struggle.”

Here at MP!, we think this might just be a fair point. Is there correlation between highly praised YA and YA with dark themes? We took to Twitter to see how the community responded. Some immediately noted that the article’s criticisms of YA were just plain silly:

Some responded with examples of how supposedly dark themes are dealt with in positive and uplifting ways:

And then there were those who went against the grain and agreed with the criticisms:

After reading the article thoroughly for ourselves, we agree that the article has a point: YA can indeed be dominated by dark themes and we would, of course, love to see more funny stories winning book prizes. However, can’t the very same be said of adult literature, a realm YA so often crosses into? Is this really an issue unique to YA? We’re not so sure.

More over, when did issues of LGBT become “gloomy”? Since when was ‘I’ll Give You The Sun’ ever read and reviewed as “dark”? The issues may be serious, but the tone is so often hopeful and inspiring, we can’t help but feel that this is a bit of an unfair judgement.

We asked all you what you thought: is YA just a bit of bummer most of the time?

Got any other thoughts? Let us know @maximumpopbooks.

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Written by Laura Fulton

Book Channel Editor at MaxPop! Have a thing for the sea and pretty paperbacks. Saved by amazing grace.

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