So, I'm alittle nervous writing this. because I know it's controversial. I know alot of people may disagree with me, and that's okay. I really hope it doesn't affect our Bransforum friendships though, because I really value those!
This is really long. If people don't want to read it, I understand. I had alot to say.
So, I read the WSJ article, and although I don't personally agree with the moralistic tone, I do agree with what she says about violent imagery. I recently read a YA book that was extremely well-written, but the story line involved torture, starvation, murder and images that were so horrible, it still gives me nightmares. And I'm an adult; my brain has stopped developing. That's not true of teens. I believe the human brain continues to develop until the age of 25. That makes young people more vulnerable, not to mention that they don't have the psychological defenses that adults have.
We seem to understand that intuitively with movies, but somehow with books.....it's not there yet.
The primary defense of these books is that it will help abused children work through their trauma. This, to me, is a very shaky assumption. I believe these books may help heal some kids, but they may damage others. These concepts express my concerns:
. If a child is trapped in a nightmare situation they MAY be helped by reading about how another child triumphed over it. That is one, very positive outcome. However, other children may find that their trauma is triggered. It becomes real and active for them, and they become something called "re-traumatized". This can be a very frightening experience. Probably one way to think about this is someone who has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder because they were in the war, and they hear a backfire, and they being shot at all over again. I have to admit I only skimmed this article, but it looks good, and it includes a section on re-traumatization: http://gainscenter.samhsa.gov/atc/text/ ... _paper.htm
. People who are psychological wounded can be vulnerable to hearing about self-destructive behavior and copying it. So, someone reading about a protagonist who is self-destructive may decide to do the same thing. A really interesting example of contagion is what happened in Asia around bulemia and anorexia, disorders that were rare until Western Culture brought it. Here's a link to an article about that: http://www.healthyplace.com/eating-diso ... enu-id-58/
. Here's an article about how celebrity suicide can increase thinking about suicide in the population: http://jech.bmj.com/content/61/6/540.abstract
c. Secondary trauma
. People can be traumatized not only through direct victimization. They can be traumatized by HEARING or SEEING someone else being traumatized. This trauma can be very severe. For all of those children who are NOT being abused, reading is a very intimate experience, and I believe they could be vulnerable to secondary trauma by reading about horrific situations happening to children. I can't prove it, I don't think there is any research, but this really begs the question: what about the children who are not being abused? This is a good, brief article about secondary trauma: http://www.childtraumaacademy.com/cost_ ... age02.html
d. Lack of an alternative world
. I don't have links for this, this is more personal experience. I was abused as a kid, and what I looked for from books was escape. I wanted to know there was another world that was better than the one I was in. I'm not saying all kids are like me, but I think there great value in helping an abused child know there are worlds where people are not abused, and giving them books that model psychologically healthy interactions and loving connections.
So am I completely condemning these books? NO!!!! Something I recently learned in Grad school is adolescence is being extended in our culture. Because the population has a longer life expentancy, people are working longer, and young people are entering the working world and becoming independent later in life. A new age group is emerging, with new challenges. I believe that this group, age range around 18-29, is the right group for these books. Not coincidentally, I believe alot of the YA books that are being written by people in this age range (not all, but many), and I think they are actually writing books appropriate for their peers.
I think a new genre is emerging, one that is targeted to the Young Adult crowd. I'd personally recommend a new genre be developed called "Teen". That way, people writing for a teenage audience will keep in mind that these may include very young, vulnerable people: 12, 13, 14, 15, 16.
I believe, more than anything, what children in this age group need are books that are wholesome: nutritious and good for you. They may include triumph over adversity, or even abuse, but written about gently, not graphically. Wholesome. That would be my wish for MG and Teen books.
If you read this to the end, thank you! I appreciate the chance to express my concerns.
I'd be very interested in other's thoughts about this, as well, if you want to share them.