Sunday, June 19, 2011


YA fiction has once again been in the news. Many of you have probably seen Sherman Alexie's much-forwarded rebuttal to a Wall Street Journal article written by Meghan Cox Gurdon, a regular reviewer at the WSJ. Alexie's article was touted and cheered in all the usual spots--okay, author grapevines and library blogs--apparently silencing supporters of Gurdon's position. Silencing is never productive. Speak up!

Personally, I sort of think YA literature is due to shift in other directions pretty soon. Can't say what will result, but I think something's coming.


  1. What kinds of shifts in YA lit are you imagining?

  2. Gurdon's "article" masquerades as an editorial, and her supporters are in a bunker somewhere in Afghanistan with Anne Coulter and her cronies [IMHO]. How did Ms. Gurdon choose her examples? Oh, wait, duh... She scanned a B & N YA shelf with her eyes closed and index finger stretched--spun around a few times, and planted her finger on Utopia--a land where teens compare their lives to those on Gossip Girl ["16 and Pregnant doesn't exist], while they covet the DVF dresses that all The Real Housewives of OC wear. A land where teens are sheltered from the "real world," the one Ms. Gurdon does not accept exists and if kids are exposed to it (as EVERY child is, even the boy who lived in the plastic bubble), then she calls their exposure a failure on the parents part. Why does she think teens read? What does she think they take from the books? Not a direct parallel with their lives, not a formula or prescription on how to deal with the world. Teens read to discover, to root for a heroine who struggles, only to savor the sweet joy that comes when most YA authors (Alexie, Hopkins, Anderson, Werlin, Thompson, Qualey, etc.) offer HOPE. That's what teens want. THAT's what every reader wants: hope.

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  4. p.s. Teens want authentic characters and stories--the truth, and nothing but the truth (Roger Sutton is soo spot-on, again IMHO). hE wrote a post about Gurdon's "article" on his blog:

  5. rosefiend--i don't know what's coming. I just feel things are so saturated now with a certain kind of fantasy. Also, maybe less of an emphasis on series?

    Technology will drive some changes of course. I bet we see more and more illustrated novels bridging the gap between novels and graphic novel.

    And I'm tempted by the idea of literary YA choose your own adventures. These would be perfect as e-books and a lovely craft challenge. Perhaps with multiple authors?

  6. Mellisa--

    Speak up!
    Okay, seriously: thank you.

    This is an ongoing issue--in one form or another I've seen it again and again every in the 20 years I've been part of the YA world.

  7. HA! The post had a little more steam than normal, for me, hence the Coulter comment... I had just conferenced with a student earlier in that morning, who plagiarized her final project. Guess who won that round? Note to self: Don't post on the Inkpot, even when the article has a cool title like "Fisticuffs."

    Anyway, Gurdon's article is worth the ongoing dialogue. Maybe I'm stretching a bit, but one thing that steams me about her article is that she focuses on the subject matter of the books, focusing on the prevalence of abuse and "problems" as if any writer has control over what she writes. I doubt most writer sit at their desks and say: "I think I'll write a book about a heroin addicted teen who is sexually abused, inter alia." Again, IMHO, Gurdon assumes those are choices a writer makes--which defies anything visceral about the process.

    Anyway, peace out! See you soon!


  8. p.s. Please forgive the god-awful errors in that post. I think I'll grab a coffee...