Today at the library I got cornered by one of those people who you just know is winding up for a rant about something.
After asking me if I worked there, she launched into a Thing about how dark young adult novels were getting and how we shouldn't be surprised when our children axe-murder us in our sleep after reading things like that. Tisk, tisk and all that.
I mostly nodded politely because I don't believe for a minute that teenagers are any more likely to axe-murder me over something they read or a game they played, than I would have when I was that age and read and played the same sorts of things. (Look, when I was coming of age, it was the horrors of Dungeons & Dragons... there's always something that's going to Ruin the Youth of Today.)
However, what this woman complained about is old news to some extent, and she's certainly not alone in worrying about it. I told her so. I also told her that I felt that some of what she was worrying about is actually a somewhat new (though, again, not really) trend in young adult books towards dystopian futures, which aren't actually about feeling sad and powerless at all, but about the need at a certain age to change the world, a desire to have a clear-cut enemy, and to DO SOMETHING to make things right. This is a Good Thing disguised as a Bad Thing.
I didn't tell her, because I knew she couldn't hear that, that I also believe books about self-harm and other things aren't so much 'how-to' books for self-destruction as novels that help people feel less alone (like I did when I discovered that there were other gay people, thanks in large part to science fiction). Maybe these were never issues written about when we were young, but... I knew people who self-harmed when I was a teen, so you know, writing about it doesn't bring it into existence, it just makes the issues less invisible.
But that was an argument I was sure to lose, so I just nodded politely. And, you know, YA *is* darker now than when I was a teen, but when I was a teen it also wasn't its own section. We didn't really have YA as a separate thing. We had juvenile and we had grown-up books. A lot of people my age had to get our parents' permission to have free range of the library once we'd grown out of Dr. Seuss. So, you know, I tried Lady Chatterly's Lover at sixteen (I missed the sex. Seriously. Completely.) I also read Go Ask Alice and didn't become a drug-addict, funny enough. Thus, I've never worried over much about books corrupting people.
At any rate.
When she really, really wanted to agree with me that it was All Bad, I told her I don't make the buying decisions for the library. If the kids want it, we stock it. What are you going to do?
Ultimately, she thanked me for such an interesting discussion
Have I mentioned I love working at the library? I do, actually. I really do.