I read a lot of YA books, but over the years I’ve noticed a lot of changes taking place. No longer are YA books the lighter fare that I was used to while growing up, but instead they’ve changed into serious stories, some ranging from fantasy or supernatural tales, or even some hardcore contemporary books.
One of the things I’ve noticed while reading some of my favourite stories is the division between groups of people. In the “real world,” I feel like we’re learning how to accept people of different ages, nationalities — we learn that we’re all the same, human beings built of bones and blood, all here for the same thing, all of us just trying to be accepted and trying to accept ourselves. Throughout the centuries, it’s been a struggle, but as a whole, I like to think that society is becoming more accepting of the differences between all of us.
Now, move this into the world of YA books. One thing I’ve noticed is that we have the main group of people in a book, the people we’re supposed to root for, and then we have the DIFFERENT people. More times than not, the groups fight and argue and mean things are said about their differences. Think about how in the “real world” it’s not okay to say politically incorrect things or really mean things straight out at anyone — we’re all so cautious to say the “right” thing that when I see people in books just being so obviously rude, I wonder what it’s teaching our kids.
Some of my favourite dystopian books are like this. Let’s take a totally popular book like The Hunger Games, for instance. Basically, the premise of the book is kids killing kids. There are different districts dividing the people. There is major hatred going on between a lot of the people and that HUGE dividing line between the districts and the Capitol. I know that parents and teachers will teach kids how to tell the difference between fiction and real life, but sometimes I feel like the line between the two — especially for kids who could get lost in so many books — is very fine.
Take books based in high school (Gossip Girl, anyone?) — we have the prom queen, the bully, the school bitch, the nerds, etc. As I write this, I even recall finishing one of my favourite books. In it, one of the characters was a HUGE bitch. Could a book like this teach someone to be JUST like that character? Maybe some kids think it’s okay to act like that?
Maybe this is just me thinking like this, and maybe this is why I find myself veering towards contemporaries these days, but sometimes so much hatred in a book can even get to me — someone who generally is very accepting in life. It makes ME sad and I have to remind myself that it’s just fiction.
Am I being too sensitive? Do you think that most kids will know how to tell the difference between the fiction of books and the reality of life? Do you think that some YA books ARE just a little too serious and maybe just a little too harsh when it comes to the differences between different cultures or societies?