I almost hate to post this because the Daily Mail is so ridiculous. I hate to give them more press, but it’s just so stupid I have to comment.
So the Daily Mail (Britian’s most idiotic newspaper) posted an editorial about the dangers of so-called “sick-lit” for teens. Take a look at this sensationalist headline:
The ‘sick-lit’ books aimed at children: It’s a disturbing phenomenon. Tales of teenage cancer, self-harm and suicide.
They are concerned about these books, like the lovely, tragic, and award-winning The Fault in our Stars by John Green, because, “these books don’t spare any detail of the harsh realities of terminal illness, depression and death.”
And apparently this is a new thing, not something that’s been going on in YA literature, and oh wait, ALL LITERATURE, since . . . the beginning of literature. I’m not sure why people are so up-in-arms about it. These harsh realities happen to people and they happen to teens. People die from cancer, from suicide, teens are abused, are depressed, it would be patronizing to not write books about this for teens. We would be assuming that they don’t happen or that they aren’t important, live changing moments for readers.
It’s just part of a greater problem I see with people’s view about books for teens and children: that they don’t expect them to have the capabilities to read about these hard issues, even while they are experiencing them in their own lives. Give me a break, people. I would also like to say that the people who write these alarmist articles about these ‘harsh realities’ in teen literature are the same type of people who get so upset about the dangers of ‘escapist’ literature like Harry Potter and other fantasy books. I guess teens just can’t win.
As a person who as a teenager had two friends die (one from cancer like the characters in TFIOS), and had her parents get divorced all in one year, it’s fairly offensive to me that people who want to “protect” teenaged me from such things in books. Death, depression, feelings of loneliness and abandonment: I had them. If books like TFIOS or other well-written books about cancer (not Lurlene McDaniel’s books, those are crap) had been around and been popular in 2003, the annus horribilis of my life thus far, maybe I would have been able to handle it better. Maybe I would have realized the universality of the isolation and fear that I was experiencing. I could have used the voices of others and the stories of others to help me wade my way through my own story. I suspect it would have made me a better friend and person in that situation.
As always, I wish people would remember that teens are people, too. That they deserve the same high quality of literature as adults; that terrible and hard things happen to them, too. We can only protect them from these things in books so much because they happen in real life and they deserve the magnificent power of literature just the same.
Lastly, because it is so apt, I must copy John Green and post the same response he did to the article. Enjoy: