On credibility

In this article on Locus Magazine’s website, Doctorow (the author of Little Brother) discusses why young adult novels should have sex (or drinking, or drug use, or mild anarchy . . . ).  His argument is simple and elegant: because teens already do these things.   Doctorow posits that if YA fiction only portrays rule-bending, authority-defying, sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll-having behavior as having immediate and dire consequences, then it will lose its credibility.  After all, real life certainly does not work that way.  In fact, a little rebellion can be a good thing, as we test our boundaries, form our personal ethics, and develop our identities.  There is a certain amount of trial and error involved in growing up.

We champion literature because, as C.S.Lewis said, “In reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself.”  Experience by proxy allows us to leap the confines of our daily existence.  It allows us to empathize with the stranger, to understand those we may never meet.  It broadens our world-view and opens our mind.  If we’d rather teens learn and “experience” the more unsavory aspects of  adult life through literature than through action, it’s vitally important that that literature honestly reflect reality.  Teens might read what rings false, but they certainly will not connect to it.  Furthermore, a literature devoid of reality, full of schmaltzy cautionary tales may well push our children to dangerous behaviors, as they seek to separate fact from myth through their own experience.  If reading about risky behaviors (which they know exist) will keep kids from engaging in them, or overindulging in them, then by all means - bring on the prose!

1 comment:

  1. That's an interesting point. Having been a really straight-laced, cautious teen I always read the books with all of those risky behaviors as seeming less authentic (I still do actually). I guess it might be a case of the squeaky wheel getting the grease. No one worries about the careful kids so they don't get written about as much (aside from making for a boring story I guess).