Monday, June 6, 2011

YA Saves. And Social Media Proves Itself (Again).

Coming late to this. If you follow young adult literature, you know the latest kerfuffle already. I'm posting for those of you who stop by here who might not have seen it yet, or whose thoughts about YA lit may be as yet unformed. Still forming? 

*I reach into your psyche and rearrange bits and bobs for optimal YA feng shui*

There. Feel better in a subtle way you cannot articulate? That was me. You're welcome.

There are always a lot of wrong-headed jerks out there bashing YA. Whatever. Jerks will be jerks. You can lead a jerk to books but you can't make him not be a jerk. This is an ongoing blatherfest of the jerkisphere: YA is porn, YA is lesser, YA blah blah blather blather. And those who know better consistently respond with articulate and even fact-based replies to the contrary, in the process revealing them to be smarter and more enlightened and all-around cooler than the jerks any old day. 

But what's different this time is something that is uniquely NOW, something only Twitter could ever hope to accomplish. It's the #YAsaves hashtag, and it has been nothing short of amazing.

Don't tweet? Maybe you're all, "Twitter. Pshaw." Well I'm still kind of clueless about all this myself, but the thing is, Twitter has a place. As evidenced by the astonishing outpouring in rebuttal to this deeply stupid and jerk-spirited Wall Street Journal "article" (dudes, it's not even an opinion piece, it's "an article." Ha, journalism these days! *holds head in hands*) 

So a hashtag is when at the end of your tweet you put a "tag" with a pound sign, that makes it part of an ongoing discussion. The hashtag makes it searchable by others, it collects them all together. In this case the hashtag is #YAsaves, and hundreds of tweets have attested to the truth that teens need these kinds of much-maligned books for very real and life-safing and sanity-saving reasons. It's such great reading, and full of links to thoughtful blog posts by such people in the know as Laurie Halse Anderson, who in the course of a career devoted to reaching teens who struggle with painful issues like anorexia and date rape, has become a beacon of anti-censorship sanity. Seriously wow and extensive and amazing tweets.  Wow, social media. Way to go.

At some point in the past few days, #YAsaves became the #3 trending topic in the US. Sit up and take note, WSJ. 

This is even better than the recent Twitter smackdown on Urban Outfitters for idea-theft. (Which was also awesome. Power to the people!)

I admit, I shook my head in confusion about Twitter for a long time. Then I kind of got into it a little. I'm a light tweeter. I don't have that much clever brevity to impart. But it's FUN, and the the potential power of it cannot be denied, to be used for good or evil, though I think the community spirit of it really favors good. At least in *this* community, which happens to be the opposite of jerks. 

On a side note: really, WSJ. You should be ashamed of your dumb self. And, I am so glad I do what I do, with all the awesome people who do it too. I [heart] my tribe. Yay, YA writers and readers!

(Also, if you want to follow me on Twitter, go here.)

[edited to add: in a stroke of whimsy, someone began a satirical hashtag #YAkills, and it's pretty funny. Here :-)]


tone almhjell said...

I was so shocked that this "wsj" who had everybody twittering with rage was neither a frisky blogger with jerk affinities nor one of those hysterical book banners trying to rock the bathtub. It was the Wall Street Journal.

How - how? - could they pass an opinon piece like this off as "news"? So silly, so unprofessional. Any local newspaper would be poo-pooed if they managed to pull something like that. I'm with Gayle Forman. This smacks of "hey, let's get a fresh angle on all that YA stuff. We've done positive, so let's do negative. And if we can't find statistics or facts to support our fresh angle, we'll just interview a concerned mother."

And then there's the opinion itself. Ah. As if it ever made sense to lecture your teenager on what books to like. Teenagers will like the books that speak to them, not the books that mimic the voice of their parents - or their great aunt Mildred.

And what is dark? Is it delving into all the real life horror that is happening to so many kids right now, like homophobia, rape, violence? Is it giving them heroes going through similar difficulties so those kids can have a hand to hold, even if that hand is not tangible? Is it teaching kids who are lucky enough not to have any darkness in their lives respect or compassion?

Actually, I think it's the paranormal, supernatural, fang-y element that has the journalist and mother so concerned about the stuff their kids read. Yes yes, it's all new and tredy and very bad. Obviously their parents saved them from the brothers Grimm.

Anonymous said...

My Dad and I used to read books from the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section. In recent years, I made the discovery that the type of fantasy stories that we like were no longer in the Fantasy section, they were in the YA section. So hooray, YA saves adults too!

Connie Onnie said...

Thank you for sharing I was out of town and saw tweets but had limited internet use I can now get all caught up. My choice to read YA as an adult has changed my life I have found some of my best friends from picking up a YA book & discovered that reading can be fun like it was when I was a teen.

Amber said...

Wow. Thanks for posting about this. Crazy! But it is great to talk about, and get people thinking about... I have to *laugh* when I think how offbase this writer is. She has no idea what "real" kids deal with. Maybe not all kids (thank god), but way too many.


Ryecik Loom said...

I agree that this article should have been in the opinion section. But the writer has a point. Does adding to the filth in the world really make it better? I've been through some fairly nasty stuff myself, but I would so much rather read uplifting, positive stories than something that makes me remember what I went through when I was younger. And I happen to dislike profanity. I think it's offensive.
My mom never tells me that I absolutely can't read anything. She's against censorship. But she certainly doesn't like it when I read stuff that's 'dark'. I figure that she's had many more years of experience, and I ought to respect that.
There are lots of wonderful books out there that I love. But I like books that aren't oppressively, drearily gray, and increasingly dark in content. I read to escape, and I generally want to escape to somewhere that's different than the world I have to face every day.
I read science fiction/fantasy all the time. I love fairy tales. But the darker they become, the less I want to read them. It reminds me too much of the world that I'm going to have to live in, the world that adults created when they were my age.
I'm not saying that these books should be censored. If someone takes away a person's right to expression, that's inherently wrong. But I, personally, don't enjoy reading stories about depressed, angsty teenagers. I have enough depression and angst to deal with already, being a teenager myself. I don't need more of it in the books that are put out there for me.
Having said that, I can certainly appreciate well-rounded characters with problems of their own. But when their problems swamp them and they are self-destructive...that's just sad. Too much darkness, and a soul will drown in it. Ultimately, I tend to finish books that have positive role models in them, and I stop reading when a character goes into a downward spiral.
This is all my personal opinion, and I'm not saying that it's totally right. But I'm a teen myself, and I believe that I have a right to voice my opinions about the kind of books I want to see out on the shelves of bookstores. And they're definitely NOT the ones that get me down. The books that I love the best are the ones in which the characters triumph against their struggles without resorting to self-destructive behavior.

Anonymous said...

I just read all about the Urban Outfitters thing- wow- how does whoever stole the exact necklace design live with themselves? I didn't know they make it a routine of ripping off other's work. I'm glad they pulled the necklace but if the person/team responsible wasn't fired then it doesn't really matter to them.

I think itsimportant to have all genres of YA out there and that teens should be as widely read as they can be. Thinnychoochoo

andalucy said...

Silly "article." What a waste of space. I've been reading the WSJ since I was fourteen and it's taken a major nosedive since Murdoch took over.
Look, I live a very conservative life morally and I found her ideas about YA ridiculous. There's a smorgasbord out there. If she doesn't like the more edgy fare she doesn't have to read it.

Adrienne said...

This is a link from NPR that articulates why the Wall Street Journal piece needed some "rethinking." It's lovely.

Laini Taylor said...

Adrienne, thanks for the link! I hadn't seen it. Really good piece. One could go a little nuts though reading the dumb comments. People. People people people ...

Laini Taylor said...

Hi Ryecik! I want to respond in more depth to your comment, which is thought-provoking, but I am bleary-eyed and just attempt a short comment for now. It sounds like you know what you like to read, and that's great. It also sounds like there's a lot of wiggle room in there for books that are good in spite of not necessarily falling into your primary category of happy & uplifting, and that's good too. I think most of us have an "exception clause" in our reading habits for the really good stuff. Like if a book is "dark" but is extremely well written and full of depth, with a good plot, good characters, and a lot to think about ... chances are you'd like it. Even if there was profanity. But that being said, there is no reason to swamp oneself in a sea of mediocre dark books when there are others to choose from that are lighter in tone!

I wanted to say something about fantasy. Since I write fantasy, and read it a lot, I can say that fantasy is not generally terribly light-spirited. It involves huge and epic problems, tragedies, disasters. It tends to throw us into perilous circumstances alongside the characters. The thing that I find so powerful about reading fantasy is this: in our "real lives" when bad things happen, especially big global bad things, etc, we are so powerless to do anything about it. But in a fantasy book, "we" (the reader living vicariously through the character) have the resourcefulness, bravery, strength, means, etc to DO SOMETHING. It is a powerful feeling, and I believe it is a big part of the appeal of fantasy.

A lot of "dark" books aren't truly dark, because they lead to character growth and triumph.

Bleary eyed. Hope that makes sense. Thanks for your comment! I found it really interesting :-)

Ryecik Loom said...

Hm. I was also bleary-eyed when I wrote that. Sorry. :)
In fact, I don't always read fluffy, happy books. I don't even LIKE that stuff most of the time. I was attempting to say, though not very clearly, that I don't like uber-realistic fiction which drowns itself in a morass of self-pity.
I definitely agree that fantasy is not, quite often, a happy genre. However, there is generally a hopeful feeling throughout the normal fantasy book that everything will turn out all right, even when all hope seems lost, and that the characters can do something about it.
I also agree that quite a few 'dark' books lead to growth and triumph. I just don't see the point when the main character seems irredeemably messed-up, and never cares to do anything about it, thus spiraling ever farther into despair.
Actually, I read a book the other day while waiting (read, procrastinating,) at the library. Kind of like a horror novel, it was filled with all the worst of human nature and little of the best, and ultimately, the three main characters had changed not a whit by the end. They were still as miserable, unfulfilled, and immature as when they began. The difference was, it was supposed to be a romantic comedy. I kind of wondered why I had read it, honestly.
Sorry. I got wordy again. I tend to do that when I'm tired. :) And thank you for taking the time to read through and reply to my view on this.

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