Friday, August 7, 2015

A Rant on YA

I ramble all the time on this blog, but I don't often rant. So you'll have to forgive me today: I feel the need to rant a little. It's about YA, that topic of conversation that can bring about so many sub-topics. You see, I had been thinking about this "problem" of sorts that I have with YA, and then I came across something (in real life) that made me feel even more frustrated (if that's the word) with this "problem."

I put "problem" into quotes because maybe it isn't a problem and it really has nothing to do with anything and I'm just being old in even noticing it or wondering about it. So that's why I call this post a rant and ask you to forgive me.

Now, I read across different genres because genre doesn't really matter to me: I tend to like the books that are less tied to one genre and therefore I'll pick up any book that looks good no matter what genre it's in (romance and mystery are the two genres, however, that I never seem to dip into--they're more acquired/specific tastes, aren't they?). So even though it seems like most of the twenty somethings these days mainly read YA, I don't read that much YA--and I didn't read that much YA even when I was the target age for YA. These days in YA I mainly just read Stephenie Meyer, Gayle Forman, and Robyn Schneider; at around 12-15 years, I think the only YA author I really read was Ann Rinaldi (and she wrote historical fiction).

So given that I only sometimes pick up YA books and even less pick up YA books that aren't form one of these three authors, here is the "problem" I've been referring to. So many of these books featuring teens seem to have in their content the party scene or lifestyle--to a lesser or greater extent. Maybe it's just teens drinking a bottle of booze in the woods in Robyn's latest book, or maybe it's a whole party thing. And this goes for TV shows with teens, as well. Along with the drinking, sometimes there's also a little much on the sleeping around--or at least the sleeping with someone too soon after meeting them. And at first I just ignored it all, dismissed it all, but it's starting to bother me more lately (maybe I am just getting old . . .)

Maybe it was also Gayle Forman's latest books that kind of left a distaste in my mouth: while I liked Just One Day and its sequel, I don't exactly like the whole spend-the-night-with-a-stranger concept, and what was with I Was Here? (Oh, yes, and note that there is absolutely no drinking in Twilight--I didn't realize until years later how great that is.)

What I'm getting at is the fact that YA is, supposedly, a genre about teens for teens. Yes, many other age groups read YA and therefore it isn't really just a genre for teens anymore, whether or not it ever was. And no, I'm not suggesting that books lie and say that teens don't even drink or do drugs or make bad decisions, and I'm not calling for censorship or morality tales. Not any of that. I just wonder. I feel like, no wonder some people might have trouble and feel like, oh, getting drunk is completely normal because even the teen books that are written by adults portray it as just a part of life (is it because they're forgetting they're writing for and about teens? or is it because they feel like they're just representing teens as real people?).

If you want to get drunk, you're putting yourself into a a situation of possible (and probable) irresponsibility and therefore you need to be responsible about when/how you get drunk. Or even drink, for that matter. The whole under-21 issue aside (which is definitely a real issue), you need to be aware of all this--but since it's completely illegal for teens to drink, it's harder for them to "drink responsibly" (if you're old enough to have your own house, you can get wasted in your own house, or otherwise as an adult you can still go out to a restaurant or bar or club or wherever and have your designated driver). So I wonder why the teen books (no, not all of them, and not all the time) just sprinkle in what I would call irresponsible behavior as casually as they would describe going out to the movies or having a few sodas.

This is just a rant. I have no main message or theme. It's just my wonderings about this concept. Again, I'm not saying that I want this genre to be all about "teaching morals to the young ones." But I do think that fiction has the ability to help people figure out how to live their lives--and sometimes the way to do that is to show how bad decisions can have bad outcomes, or how a little responsibility can go a long way. Characters have to be realistic, yes, and therefore they also have to be flawed, but do we really need to show so much of certain flaws? It's like you get all the anti-drug programs in elementary school and then all the pro-alcohol fiction in high school (no, I'm not saying drugs and alcohol are equal; but getting drunk irresponsibly is pretty much on the same lines as drugs).

So there's my issue. Bye, I'm done. I'll say nothing more, I promise.

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