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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Is YA lit going down the toilet? Part 2

Okay, here are my answers...

However, before I begin can I just say that I am very disappointed with my peers. Out of roughly 29 people that I e-mailed at work today who deals with this on a daily basis, only two felt enough passion to address the issue. Once again, pitiful!

1. Do you think that the literature students read shape their generation or does the generation shape the literature?

I think the literature is a direct reflection of the lives lived by the previous generation and the current perception in the media. Dr. Robin from Oprah said, “[They] are defining for girls who they are, making them think they're choosing it, and then profiting off of the demise of a whole generation of girls and women...”

Isn’t the ‘they’ here other, older women? Aren’t ‘they’ essentially a direct reflection of their own education, literature and generational influences? Perhaps we are finally seeing the effect (I want to say 'feministic' here but am afraid...) writing from the 70s and 80s has had on the minds of young women. They have found their power, but in a sexually promiscuous/powerful way.

2. Should we just be happy that they are reading versus quality of literature?

One teacher replied:
"I believe that a deep thinker will choose quality books in order to stimulate a need for intellectual growth. Hopefully, girls are exposed to many different types of literature. Depending on the depth of their thinking, they will naturally choose books that challenge the profundity of their nature and the natural need to grow from where they are."

So, with this viewpoint I agree. We should just be happy they are reading. Because they are young and growing (especially in their literary tastes) and those who can think beyond the current hype will move on and those who can’t will continue to read shallow literature and be, possibly (probably?), shallow people.

3. Has the age of innocence already been lost (and how) or is it salvageable?

I think the ‘age of innocence’ has been gone much longer than many realize. I feel that children can still be considered ‘sheltered’, but they are no longer innocent. Innocence was lost with MTV and R rated movies. Children are learning to read at an earlier age and what we read as middle schoolers they are now reading in 4th and 5th grade. Their ‘innocence’ is on the fast-track.

4. Should the age of the characters come into play when discussing if a book is harmful? How big is the difference between a 14 and an 18 year old. Shouldn't it be mentioned that the Clique features characters that are 13 and 14 and does not address sex whereas The Gossip Girls features 17 and 18 year old characters that are having sex?

There is a big difference between 14 and 18 year olds and I think that should come into play when considering who is reading these books. These 13 and 14 year old girls are living/reading in a fantasy land and they know it. When I watched movies as a kid about high schoolers, I knew they were older than me and I didn’t think I could accomplish what they were doing. I feel the same thought applies to literature. The girls reading these novels know they are not as old or rich as the characters. I really don’t see my students trying to imitate the actions of their characters.

5. Are these books that different from the Judy Blumes, Stephen Kings, Christopher Pikes and Anne Rices of our generation?

Especially when addressing the Sci/Fi and Horror genres, I’m not seeing a big difference with the quality of life presented in the books. Aliens and Vampires were romanticized for me through King, Koontz and Pike with their vast amounts of wealth, blood/guts/gore and sex, but I didn’t go out and try to emulate them. It seems to me that Gossip Girls and The A-List has replaced these genres of the past with an equivalent for young people but the vehicle has changed:

•Vampires accumulated their wealth over years by being immortal (and killing)
•High society girls accumulate their wealth through their fathers (who are possibly vampires?)

•Vampires and Aliens take control by killing and slaughtering practically anything in their wake
•High society girls give the ‘cut direct’ to peers

•Vampires and Aliens have explicit sex scenes in books because they can and they want to
•High society girls have explicit sex scenes in books because they can and they want to

Now, I am referring to my education through literature. I can only reflect on what I read as a child.

Link of interest:

Nocturnal Wonderings This is the original blog that got me started…I especially liked Suisan’s comment about Anne Rice…nice one!

Theoretical Considerations for Young Adult Literature

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