At the moment there is a topic being discussed on twitter (looks for #yasaves and check out the article that started it all here) This is what I think.
Although I can agree on some of the points mentioned in the article I cannot help but feel a sense of self righteous indignation. There is no way that there was 'nothing' to be found that did not include the expansive list of 'dark' matter provided. I can walk into my local book shop and find the classics - Black Beauty, What Katy Did, Peter Pan, Jane Austen, Brontes... - in the YA section of the store. And what of the countless thoroughly captivating series that are out there? That don't have any self harm, mutilation, swearing etc. I for one - at the grand old age of 21 - really enjoy the Percy Jackson and the Olympian sereis - although there is death, language is at a minimum if even present at all. And there is a whole bunch of books aimed at the young female reader. And Terry Pratchetts YA books are also really good with no self harm as far as I can recall.
And if modern YA is teaching me anything it is that the heroine can save herself. She has to have her own inner strength and does not have to rely on others in her life to rescue her. She can rely on herself.
Books meant the world to me when I was young. I had a blessed child hood compared to some but I learned at a very early age that no matter what, people will always let you down in some way, shape or form whether intentionally or not. People are not reliable. But books are. Books swallowed me up and took me away from the disappointment of life and took me to different countries, cities or even worlds. Characters in books can not hurt you or let you down. Although I do agree with the article about the use of language in YA literature it is not all that far removed from the truth. I for one do not swear. I see no point in it. But schools today are filled with some of the foulest language imaginable and believe me I don't think any of these kids have picked up a book outside of having too in English (at least that was the case for the majority of the 100 or more students in my year) so you tell me what has been influencing them if not the moral depravity found in YA literature... And as for endings. More often than not. Life does not end in a shower of roses with an angelic chorus. Although it is lovely to read of a nice fluffy ending that can make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, that is not life. And such endings do set a person up for a very hard fall when they discover this.
I do believed that sex has its place and in YA novels is not where it should be. But lets face it, songs, TV, films, games, adverts...sex is everywhere. Why pick on YA! (A/N I have put a book down and not gone any further when sex has suddenly (and I do mean suddenly!) appeared in the middle of a YA novel for no reason - but I have no issue with it being read this is just my own opinion on the matter)
And while we are on the subject how about we do a little bit of game bashing. If anything needs addressing I believe it is that! Roll playing and controlling the actions of a character who kills, mutilates and shoots at another person - who realistically reacts to this in showers of blood (as can be seen just from the adverts of such games). So how about you address that!
I believe that parents do have the rite to know what their kids are reading and individually judge whither their children are ready to read a certain subject matter. But based on their individual child's development and level. This is not a black and white issue that should be seen as being hard set and applicable to everyone. Some children although being a certain age may be 'younger' than their peers but that does not mean that everyone of that age group should not be allowed to read that book...if that makes any sense.
But what about the classic! Wuthering Heights deals with obsession, violence, abuse... Macbeth covers murder and madness, Romeo and Juliet - oh dear your child is going to read that and think it is glamorous to kill themselves and their girl/boy friend. Novels by Charles Dickens covers violence against children, death and countless other issues - including drug use in some.
As a kid I remember adults speaking about things in my presence because they thought I was deaf and dumb. This is a common misconception I think. Children are quick. They can pick up on atmospheres and vibes - they do not need to be told that something is wrong. And when they do see and hear things they can easily join the dot. They are no thick, blind or deaf. And YA authors are giving them a voice.
The real world is not all happily ever afters and Prince Charmings no matter how much we wish it may be.