Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Great (YA Gender) Divide


***AN ABRIDGED HISTORY***
Once, boys and girls both read, and read often.

So, I’m a guy. A dude. I play sports, grill meat, and sometimes, under the influence of beer-flavored beer, I’ve even been known to chest bump.

But I also write fiction.  And not just fiction – young adult fiction. 

On the way to becoming a YA author, I noticed something strange about my masculine circumstance.  When I first started out – learning to query, learning to write and edit – I stumbled into these e-relationships online with others who were endeavoring to take the same path.  We found common ground, usually in genre, and supported each other in the journey toward publication.

***AN OBSERVATION***
Ninety percent of my YA author e-relationships are with women.

I know, that really isn’t evidence of anything, but it got me thinking.  What about the male-oriented stories?  A quick browsing of the YA section of any bookstore will show you just how feminine the genre has become.

This isn’t a bad thing, but for me it is slightly alarming on a business level.  Publishers publish to make money, but if the balance of YA books being published is overwhelmingly for teenage girls, does that mean teenage boys aren’t reading?

***A CONFESSION***
I didn’t read much as a teenager.

Sure, I took in the occasional Crichton book and tried to understand Clancy military thrillers, but I was more drawn to Spielberg movies and comic books.  Today, there are even more distractions with video games and the internet.

As I've aged, my reading habits have changed, grown.  Right now, I’m reading Alexa Martin’s GIRL WONDER.  Alexa is a good friend and has written an amazing account of what it must be like to be the new girl at a new high school.

***A REASURING ANNOUNCEMENT***
I like girl-oriented YA.

Though Alexa would definitely welcome me, and even though a guy like me can enjoy and see the literary merit of GIRL WONDER, I am probably not among Alexa’s target audience, though it begs the question - do I need to relate to the subject matter of a book to enjoy it, and if not, why not target me as a potential reader?

Looking at the many amazing books in the YA section makes me wonder if teenage boys would read more if they were targeted more.

Certainly, these thoughts are void of the complications and economics of marketing, but still...

***HERE IS A SMALL FACT***
Teenage boys like to read.

Some authors know this.  And some of them are men.  Look at the works of John Green or Andrew Smith.  Heck, even J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series was aimed at boys.  So then, what about YA is so standoffish to teenage boys?  Is it marketing?  Is it this new feminine cultural definition of YA?  Is it the more boyish distractions of video games and sports?  

I’m not certain, honestly.  But I think this is an issue that needs to be addressed.  There is a bigger market out there that would support more teenage boy readers.  We just need new ideas on how to approach them.

(Paragraph headings are totally "borrowed" from Markus Zusak’s THE BOOK THIEF.  I'll give them back.  I promise.  Premise was inspired by Andrew Smith's recent observations of gender in YA.)


Monday, June 27, 2011

The Backup Plan

So, today there were some minor ripples in the world of publishing.  My agency, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management, has made an announcement that they will be offering a new service to their clients: a sort of e-publishing advocacy. 

Strictly speaking, this is a service for their clients who wish to see a second life for their out-of-print work and hold reverted rights.  This service is also useful for that doomsday scenario where an author’s manuscript falls into submission hell and no house is buying.  Here, e-publishing might be the only option left for such a manuscript, unless the author should prefer to trunk it for several years in hopes that one day new editors are working at the houses.

So why should you care?  Well, the times, they are a-changin’.  E-publishing has gained an extraordinary momentum due to technological advances.  You probably have an e-reader in your pocket.  Most smartphones these days are capable of becoming digital books with the touch of an app.  That is a huge potential market of book buyers.

However, this doesn’t mean publishing houses are going away.  And it doesn’t mean agencies are going to become publishers.  DGLM will remain a literary agency and only advocate and advise for e-publishing, keeping in tact the 15% agency fee and quashing any possibility of a conflict of interest.

But with all change, there is resistance.  Some are uncomfortable with the blurring of duties and borders.  Though, for me, such feelings are behind the times.  Agents are now taking roles that used to be traditionally for editors – you need only look at the track changes John made on my last draft to see just how much editing they do. 

Personally, I like having this option – and that’s all it is.  An author can elect to do this, or not – it’s a choice. 

Any thoughts on this new trend?  Share away!

EDIT: Here's an excellent in depth breakdown of where DGLM fits into the agency becoming publisher trend: David Gaughran's site.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

ALOHAMORA: Pottermore Revealed!

I have to admit, I came to Harry Potter a bit late.  Book Five or Six.  The reason, I think, was that all along I thought the series was a sort of kid-exclusive fairytale.  Seeing Chris Columbus’ take on the first movie only reinforced that opinion.  And the covers looked liked cartoons.  They were beautiful, but not something that I was very comfortable with reading in public.

Had I lived in Britain, however, the covers at least wouldn’t have been a problem.  Check these adult versions out:





A stark and very cool contrast to the American versions.

This, though, isn’t a post about my experience in, or my love for, the world of Harry Potter.  This is about J. K. Rowling’s BREAKING NEWS revealed today!

The door has been unlocked (presumably by an alohamora spell), letting us sneak a peek into what’s coming.  Here is Pottermore.com in Rowling’s own words:





I’m not sure how deep or ambitious this community will be, but if anything, this is a brilliant way to announce the release of the ebooks.  Though, this may leave Apple users out, because as of now the only way to purchase ebooks for the iPhone and iPad is through the Apple Store, and Pottermore is the exclusive destination to purchase eHarry Potter.  It debuts in October.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Go the F*** Away

This is getting old. 

First, the rapper Common gets skewered by Fox News for a poetry read at the White House and labeled a proponent of killing cops because of lines taken out of context from a poem he wrote – the same poem which ironically takes a stand against such violence.  The truth, unfortunately for those making the preposterous accusation, was only a stanza or two deeper into the piece.

Then there was The Wall Street Journal’s now infamous attack on young adult fiction which suggests that reading dark material may inspire one to dark action.  You’ll forgive me if I abstain from rehashing that fiasco. 

Now, in an opinion piece at Fox News dot com, there is another tear shed for the supposed erosion of our wholesome culture, all because of the new bestseller “Go the F*** to Sleep.”  You should also know that the opinion is written by an author who claims (several times) that F*** is an obvious parody of his own work and sites some fairly universal themes as reasons why.  Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but because the piece is such an obvious grab at some of F***’s success, evidenced by the numerous links back to his personal author web page, I’m opting not to link the story here. 

Because really, f*** that guy.

What is so ludicrous is the suggestion that Go the F*** to Sleep is even a children’s book.  Sure, it may have that sugary style, hand-drawn art, and bright colors found in the genre, but F*** is a children’s book like an Apple Martini is a kid’s drink.

And of course there is the (now seemingly mandatory to these opinion pieces) desperate cry for society to examine its culture.  As if America has one culture.  Still, seeking homogenization of our culture into the author’s vanilla version doesn’t really offend me.  I disagree, but whatever.  Such an idea is simply selective blindness to the layers of American culture which are obviously different from his own, but really, at the end of the day, it’s just ignorance.  So be it and to each their own.  At least I can turn a deaf ear to that sort of talk.

But like the claims that young urban kids listening to Common might be inspired to kill a cop and that somehow young adults reading dark YA might be inspired to cut themselves, this ending point, made as the opinion writer’s last ditch effort to sell his argument, f***ing pisses me off:

“Also, can't we admit that ‘Shut the F*** Up!’  could slightly encourage spousal abuse? Don't we think ‘Go the F*** to Sleep’ might conceivably encourage child abuse?”

Enough with the fear tactic, already.  It’s desperate and lazy.  But, sadly, it is also effective and dangerous, and very irresponsible.  These opinion pieces are known to gain momentum in certain circles and only build intolerance.  Is it too much to ask for one side to simply disagree with the other without suggesting the pillars of our communities may crumble? 

So, if you please, Mr. Opinion Writer…for the sake of the many cultures of America, which are doing just fine, thank you very much…go the f*** away.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Buy a Book, Save the World!

It's a Double Post Friday here at INK ROCK!  Don't miss the first: Last Day of Premiere Week for The Story Behind the Story!

Back in 2008, at the height of the economic crunch, and during one of the lowest points in recent years for the publishing business, I launched a Facebook Group called Buy a Book, Save the World! in order to prompt people to get out to a bookstore and buy a book.

Well, you all responded.  The group grew to over three thousand strong and around that group, a small community developed where members discussed books, authors, and their favorite bookstores.

Facebook is now planning to archive that group (removing all our 3000+ members), so I've decided that now is the perfect time to reinvent the site and refocus on the author and the bookstore.  Buy a Book, Save the World! will be relaunching in the coming months and hopefully become an atlas for author hotspots and unique bookstores that are worth a visit.  I hope to see you there soon!

Stay tuned!

The Story Behind the Story: Premiere Week Ends!

Thanks for tuning in for INK ROCK'S debut of The Story Behind the Story!  We'll get back to regular programming next week with future chapters of SBS peppered in once a week, every Wednesday, until the series ends. 

***

The Story Behind the Story is a regularly-run segment in memoir form telling the story of the places and experiences that inspired The Revelation Saga.  It is taken, in part, from an email journal made during the adventure.  Names have been changed to protect the innocent.
_______________________

Chapter 3
The Flight that Shagged Me


            Like anyone who has ever sat in a seat on an airplane, there comes a moment, whether it’s before take off, during flight, or just before landing, when this dark little thought creeps into your head and makes you wonder if tonight, you make the news.

            As the aircraft turns north toward the top of the world, this thought passes through my mind and yet I am confident that if the plane went down this very moment, I would die happy.  Having borrowed miles from my traveling salesman father, I’ve upgraded to Upper Class on Virgin Airlines’ flagship, the Triple Seven.  I love the name, by the way.  And like its name, I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot on a slot machine.

            All the bullshit is behind me.  The tinker toy airplanes, the horrid weather, stinky seats, bimbo co-pilots, and the herd of Joeys from Friends that tried to intentionally get me lost at JFK Airport.  All just a fading memory.

            Instead, I’m focused on the glass of champagne I’m drinking, handed to me upon boarding, which I did on time as the weather in New York had, thankfully, delayed takeoff.  1960’s d├ęcor and the cutest flight attendants wearing smiles and pink miniskirt uniforms, looking like extras from an Austin Powers movie, fill the cabin.

            Look, I’m sort of out of my element here, being a broke-ass law student and all.  I know that, but so what?  I’m going to enjoy the hell out of this while I’ve got the chance. Right?  I mean, it's obvious I'm meant to  - there’s even a bar on the plane!  A bar…on a plane. 

Across the aisle and one row up is actor Fisher Stevens.  As I’m drinking up the courage to speak to him about Angelina Jolie’s boob slip in the movie Hackers, my thoughts are interrupted by a pixie flight attendant holding a clip board.  “Pardon me, sir,” she says in a bubbly British accent. “What time would you like to schedule your MAH-sage?”
           
            “My…what?”

            “Massage, sir.  With our on-board masseuse?”

            She points with her pen to a corner of the plane that’s hiding one of those sit down, lean over things you see at the mall.  It's difficult to restrain the inner me that wants to jump up and scream, No freaking way! “After dinner service,” I say instead, like I've done it all before.

            “Very good, sir,” she says and gives me a time.

            A short while later, I’m three scotches deep and done with dinner.  I had Steak Diane, just because I was curious about what exactly made it Diane.  Still don't know.  The menu is written like something out of a Michelin Star restaurant and I can order anything, anytime.  And get this – the food is good.  I mean, it’s not going to win any James Beard Awards, but come on – we’re like thirty thousand feet over an ocean.

            The massage proves to be the last straw.  Besides, it’s late.  The experience is euphoric, but I’ve had too much to drink.  It’s possible I proposed marriage to the masseuse while her magical fingers worked out every ounce of stress from the muscles in my back.

            Afterwards, I stumble back to my chair where I discover that it reclines into a bed.  I flip through the stations of my personal video screen, but exhaustion soon takes me.  I vaguely remember having a blanket laid over me by a smiling stewardess and just before the world fades away I have a twinge of regret that I’d missed the plane’s bar.

            Not that I needed it. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Premiere Week Continues!

The Story Behind the Story is a regularly-run segment in memoir form telling the story of the places and experiences that inspired The Revelation Saga.  It is taken, in part, from an email journal made during the adventure.  Names have been changed to protect the innocent.
_______________________

Chapter 2
How Not to Fly

            The Atlanta Airport is a kinetic mosh of chaos and disorder, a kicked anthill.  On top of that, it’s huge.  How something so big can be so packed with so many people is beyond me.  Luckily, I’m at my gate, worrying about the next part of the journey – getting to New York in the narrow window of time I have left to make the flight to London. I’m to be on the last flight out, the redeye, and missing it would cause a domino effect that I don’t want to think about.  There is a three hour layover in New York, but my plane in Atlanta is now three hours late.  Do the math.

            The good news?  My plane has arrived.  The bad news?  Where do I start?  First, the reason the plane is three hours late, I’m told, is because of a maintenance issue. Issue sounds so clinical, so clean.  Something to be solved with consideration and perhaps a philosophical conversation.  Not like a maintenance problem, which is what happens when the flux capacitor, or whatever the hell it's called, falls out of the freaking engine - something a little more serious than a busted beverage cart and requires hammers and screaming to fix.

            Please fasten your seatbelts.  The captain has informed us your confidence may experience some slight rough air. 

            Secondly, if my first plane was overkill, this one is its Danny DeVito-in-Twins brother.  I can see it parked on the tarmac, not even connected to a gate, waiting on me to board.  The damn thing actually looks sad. The wings seem to droop, and the nose graphics and cockpit windows somehow together look like a crying clown.  Perfect.  An emotionally compromised airplane.  And here I forgot my tissues. 

Walking up the pull-away steps in the Georgian summer heat, the piercing squeal of the engine’s turbine promises to have my ears ringing for hours.  I’m empty handed, as I’ve had to check my carry-on backpack, and I can see why.   

            Your mobile phones and other electronic devices that might be useful in an emergency situation should be turned off during takeoff.

            I’m so worried I’ve made an error in boarding the wrong plane that I check with the elderly flight attendant, but she confirms the plane does indeed fly to New York City.  When I ask if we’ll be dusting crops on our way, her patronizing smile suggests she intends to spit in my drink later.

            If you are seated at an emergency exit, please review the responsibilities on the back of the safety information card found in the seat pocket.  It is highly likely these instructions will become useful during flight.

            My seat is at the front of the plane, in clear view of the open cockpit.  The old stewardess makes three unsuccessful attempts to close the outside door as the steps are pulled away from the plane.  The look on her face makes me wonder if she got it on her last try.  She then takes a moment to run through her safety speech.  The words ‘sudden’ and ‘decompression’ stick in my mind. 

            There’s activity in the cockpit as the plane taxis out to the runway.  Our captain looks like he moonlights as a lounge singer and the co-pilot is a daffy-looking, blond-haired woman, her face thick with bright make-up.  From my vantage point I can see her scratch her head constantly as she looks at the instrument panel.  I pray she has lice.

            Should your confidence experience an unlikely water landing, your seat may be used as a defecation device. 

            Eventually the plane rattles its way into the sky.  I look to my watch, doing the math in my head.  This is going to be close.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Story Behind the Story

Premiere Week!  The Story Behind the Story is a regularly-run segment in memoir form telling the story of the places and experiences that inspired The Revelation Saga.  It is taken, in part, from an email journal made during the adventure.  Names have been changed to protect the innocent.
_______________________

Chapter 1
Turbulence

The flight from Birmingham to Atlanta?  Seems simple.  Easy.  A softball on the Final Exam of How to be a Pilot.  Ah, but add an outlying element.  Say, a thunderstorm.  Make that a Capital-T Thunderstorm.  Now the scenario changes.  Evolves.  Becomes something entirely different.  What was once elementary is now String Theory Physics.

            The thing about this short, pit-stop of a flight is that it is too short.  Not even worthy of offering a bag of peanuts.  Apparently, and I’m not a pilot so I make no warranty to the accuracy of this, but apparently BHM to ATL is not enough of a distance to gather altitude and fly around, or over, anything.  By the time the plane has a chance to reach cruising altitude, it’s already making preparations for decent and landing.

            I’ll say this – it’s difficult to keep perspective on the hopeful things to come – things like moving to England for a semester and girls with sexy accents, when things are, if you’ll pardon the expression, going south on a plane.  My seat smells like B.O., which I’m pretty sure isn’t mine, and the constant flash of lightning outside leaves me less than confident about my future.  Images of John Lithgow’s scene in The Twilight Zone Movie come to mind.  Again, I check the wing for homicidal gremlins. 

            The plane seems like overkill for a thirty minute flight.  It’s one of the bigger ones.  Don’t know the make or model, if that's even the right way to refer to a plane, though I’m sure this is some sort of D-C3PO something or other.  The aisles are mostly empty, which is fortunate.  No babies, either, thank god.  Just business types, doing their best to keep their dignity as the plane shakes us all like James Bond's favorite martini.
  
            We hit an air pocket and the plane drops what feels like a mile.  The whole fuselage shakes like hell.  An overhead compartment bursts open and a blue blanket falls on my head. 

My death shroud, no doubt.

Someone groans behind me.  It’s a horrible sound to hear on a plane, much crueler than a scream.  A scream can mean many things and we’re accustomed to hearing them made in surprise, fright, or when seeing Justin Timberlake.  With so many meanings, we’ve become sort of numb to their sound.  Basically, they’re the human equivalent to car alarms.  But a groan – that guttural, almost involuntary sound made in futility, when the inevitable is upon someone.  A lovely soundtrack to the situation, to be sure.

The plane steadies and a short while later we’re in Atlanta, no worse for wear.  Ever seen a grandparent after they've been talked into riding a roller coster by their grandchild?  That's the look on everyone's face as they deboard.  I run through the airport, ride the airport subway, and eventually arrive at my gate to descover that the plane is late. Wonderful.  In New York, there is a plane waiting to take me to London.  I have a layover there built into my itenerary to ensure I make the flight, but if this delay in Atlanta lasts too long, my careful plans will fall apart.  So I sit and wait.  Time ticks away on my wrist watch.

“Whatever you do,” my dad had said at the airport just before I left, “make sure you never miss your flight.”

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Box of Chocolates

INK ROCK has been tagged!  Eli Ashpence graciously included me in a meme floating around that asserts Writing is NOT like a Box of Chocolates while seeking to discover a personal definition of what exactly writing is from different authors. The person tagged is then to finish the sentence, “Writing is like…,” post it on their blog, and then tag three others to join in the fun.

Though I can’t for the life of me find the passage to get an exact quote, one part of Stephen King’s On Writing that stuck in my head was when he likened writing to a sort of telepathy, a supernatural dialogue between two people, the writer and the reader, where images and scenes from the author’s mind appear in the reader’s, as if by magic.  Basically, mind reading. 

This is definitely part of what writing is for me.  There is a communicative value in the words on the page and though the conversation is one sided, there is still something being said between two people.  Try not to think about the whole “I wrote this now so in the future you can go back in time and read my thoughts.”  Your brains, they will melt.

Adding to King’s definition, writing is like astral projection.  Through the author’s ideas, as a reader, I feel as though I’m traveling, exploring the places, cultures, and characters in the book.   Yet physically, I don’t even have to leave the comfort of my favorite reading spot.  This is why INK ROCK focuses on the connection of place and prose.  Haven’t you ever just “felt like you're there” when a good book is so well written, it can transport you to its world?

That’s writing.  Now if only I could figure out a way to rack up frequent flyer miles through all this astral projection. 

Tagged: 

Mindy McGinnis - Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire
Alexa Martin - Dirty Girls Diary and author of Girl Wonder
Caroline Tung - Caroline in Space

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Parental Guidance Suggested

Over at Dystel & Goderich’s website, my agent John Rudolph ran a post about the WSJ fallout over an article that attacked YA fiction as being too dark, too depraved.  John posed an interesting question as to whom amongst the gatekeepers bear the responsibility for disseminating such material to the children and young adults – the publishers or the bookstores?

Personally, I sort of have a stake in this discussion as I expect my series, The Revelation Saga, to garner a certain amount of attention for being controversial on its take on certain religious subjects. 

I remember the late 80s when some pop groups began to surface that used explicit lyrics in their songs.  There was the inevitable, and perhaps even justified, response from parental groups that objected to the sale of these records to children under a certain age.  They demanded labels be placed on packaging and that selling the explicit material to a minor become a criminal offense.  In fact, I believe here in Alabama a sales clerk was actually charged for selling one of these records to a minor.

Is this where we’re heading with YA books?  Admittedly, even experts remain muddled on the definition on what is YA and what isn’t.  Heck, you’re lucky if YA gets separated from other children’s books in certain bookstores.  Truthfully, I’m of two minds on ratings.  On one hand, I want to help parents know what they are putting in their kid’s hands when they buy my book. But this concern assumes that the parent is still the gatekeeper on what their children read.  With digital access and every kid with a smart phone in their pocket, is this even possible? 

On the other hand, and I’m almost hesitant to admit this, but getting a Parental Advisory label slapped on my book practically ensures a greater interest from some consumers.  Going back to the 80s, my friends and I, teenagers at the time, flocked to the record store to grab 2 Live Crew’s album the minute it became parental contraband.  And yet, having my work reduced to a short list of warning descriptors on a label gives me a very uneasy feeling and no doubt diminishes the value of the work as a whole.

To see the possible future of book ratings, one only has to look at the video game market.  Mass Effect, a wildly successful game, fell into the crosshairs of parental groups when it was labeled as having sexual content.  Examination of the content in question would reveal that it was arguably no worse than situations found in many primetime network television programs, and hardly even rose to the level of soft core, yet outrage ensued.  But the game sold millions.  Did the outrage hurt sales?  Not likely.  It seems to have perhaps enhanced them.

So, what is the answer when it comes to adult content in YA books?  Publishers I believe should be free to publish, without the oversight of censorship shadowing their efforts.  And shelf space is a finite resource in bookstores.  It may not be feasible to categorize for content. 

Is a rating system the answer?  What are your thoughts?

Monday, June 6, 2011

In Defense of Andrew Smith


On Saturday, June 4th, 2011, an article was published in Wall Street Journal that sought to do what has become almost thematic for Rupert Murdoch's American news reporting media outlets – attack a segment of pop culture as being unwholesome or depraved, similar in tone to their recent campaign against rapper Common’s visit to the White House. 

Darkness Too Visible, Meghan Cox Gurdon’s article, the title of which could have been that from a book by Madeleine L’Engle, takes aim at young adult novels, siting the entire genre as “a hall of fun-house mirrors, constantly reflecting back hideously distorted portrayals of what life is.”  Take that, Harry and Bella!

Specifically, Gurdon points to the works of several popular authors, one of them INK ROCK follower Andrew Smith (The Marbury Lens 2010, Stick Coming 2011), and compares their books to those of yesteryear, noting a supposed meteoric rise in profanity, instances of rape, drug use, sexual deviance, and self mutilation, to name a few.  Sadly, no objection to Rock and Roll or dancing was mentioned and Kevin Bacon could not be reached for comment.

Without a doubt, there is some heavy material out there in the world of YA.  Dystopia and vampires reign, and some of the contemporary fare describe very harsh realities.  When Fox News and the WSJ, both owned by Murdoch's News Corp., rallied together to launch outrage at rapper Common’s poetry reading at the White House, they did so in a similar fashion as Ms. Gurdon – without any consideration to the circumstance and reality that inspired the art.  It seems Gurdon would rather look through a pair of her own magical glasses than see the world for how it is.  Perhaps Andrew Smith could arrange something. 

Also, is it just me that found humor as to where this article was published?  Such irony is almost unbearable where a newspaper named The Wall Street Journal objects to stories of dystopian cities and blood suckers as being too dark.  I mean, seriously.  If you want to talk dark, allow me to grab my black kettle and let's discuss the economy.

So, what is the alternative here that would satisfy those like Fox News and Ms. Gurdon?  Should we listen to them when they point to the narrow road of “Main Street USA,” with its picket fences, white neighbors, Ken and Barbie couples, and children playing outside on the swing set, and say, “Live here.  This is the American Dream.”  Or, should we acknowledge that it is only a dream, a fantasy, and that there is a bigger, richer, more connected world out there worth living in, warts and all.  Instead of burying our heads in the sand, isn’t it better to admit that there are bad things going on in the world and start talking or writing about them?  If these issues aren’t being discussed, then they are being ignored.  And if they are being ignored, then how can anyone afflicted by them be helped? 

By the way, as an aside, I’ve lived on “Main Street USA.”  The picket fences have termites, Ken is sleeping with one of the white neighbors – everyone suspects it’s Bob, and the kids are sniffing glue they’ve stolen from their underfunded school because Barbie is too numb on gin and Xanax to know what’s going on.  Just so you know.  Careful what you wish for.

My point is, art and literature don’t happen in a vacuum.  They are a product of the environment.  As are your kids.  You’ll notice you never hear outrage from the intended readers of these books.  That’s because they are smarter than those like Gurdon give them credit for.  Authors like Andrew Smith and Lauren Myracle, another singled out by the WSJ article, already know this, which is why they are wildly popular with their audience.  One thing about young adults and kids - they know what's true, what's real.  And they can weed out bullshit like a cadaver dog can a body.  What?  Too dark?

I’m hopeful that Gurdon’s ultimate point to her misguided article is that parents need to parent, and that they are the best censor for their children.  Everyone agrees on that point.  However, I’m disappointed that she failed to find or acknowledge the value of these works and how they fit into the environment of reality.  Also, articles like this flirt with the idea of banning material, even where doing so isn’t explicitly discussed.  You don’t have to be a historian to know what burning books did for 1930’s Europe.