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When an Article Can Start a Revolution #YAsaves


In this world of social media and vocal proponents of various topics, it still amazes me how something can go viral so quickly … how people can rally around a cause, share their stories, and become proponents for something. All in a matter of hours.

As I’ve said before, I’m entrenched in the world of books and young adult literature. As an aspiring author I’ve surrounded myself with amazing critique partners, contacts, and experts in writing. This last week I’ve been keeping an eye on the topic of #YAsaves – which became huge on Twitter this week. It all stemmed from an article written by Meghan Cox Gurdon in the Wall Street Journal. It attacks violence and dystopian concepts in young adult literature, saying readers are now surrounded by images of “damage, brutality and losses of the most horrendous kinds.”

How dark is contemporary fiction for teens? Darker than when you were a child, my dear: So dark that kidnapping and pederasty and incest and brutal beatings are now just part of the run of things in novels directed, broadly speaking, at children from the ages of 12 to 18.

The article goes on to cite various recent, popular works and the issues they contain – rape, torture, abduction, self-injury, drugs – and says that it is possible that by speaking to these subjects, authors are normalizing them and spreading their plausibility.

A significant amount of people disagree. And disagree strongly. Shortly after the WSJ post came out, a backlash from YA authors and readers hit Twitter using the hashtag #YASaves. People expressed their views and many readers opened up to ways that their favorite young adult books helped them cope, or even saved their life. There have been over 33k tweets (and it climbs with each passing minute) containing the hashtag – and it topped at #3 as a trending topic in the US earlier this week. Tweets included:

Books are, at their heart, dangerous. Yes, dangerous. Because they challenge us: our prejudices, our blind spots. #yasaves -@libbabray

Honestly, @wsj, do you think we just make this stuff up? The darkest parts of many of my books came directly from my teenage life. #yasaves -@HollyBlack

Yeah. Go on. Tell teenagers that they shouldn’t read books. Know what you’ll get? Guaranteed literacy. #YAsaves -@AletheaKontis

Just curious, @wsj, do you have some kind of WRITTEN POLICY that you will only let idiots write about YA? Is it, like, a THING? -@maureenjohnson

And they didn’t stop at Twitter. Book bloggers, authors, and readers began taking the topic to their blogs – where they discussed in longer detail what reading YA means to them.

Other websites jumped on board with their view on the subject. NPR, The New Yorker, and The Guardian even weighed in.

And while I agree with most of the comments, most of the tweets – the social media analyst in me is waiting for the response. If there will even be one. While many companies with social media “fails” come out with explanations and apologies, I’m not sure that Ms. Gurdon will respond to the attacks. Because, for the most part, this was an opinion piece. It wasn’t a customer service fail. It wasn’t a PR pitch gone wrong fail.

Do you think that all Twitter campaigns need a formal response? Or is it better to sometimes let an upheaval die out altogether?

Image Source: SXC


  • Rachel Seigel

    Excellent question Nikki! I think that in this particular case, and especially once the topic went viral, a formal response (and I say response- not defense or apology necessarily) from the author of the original article would have been appropriate. Perhaps they were of the view that it would quietly die down, but it hasn’t, and I think silence has helped to fuel it. In a social media world where trending topics change in a heartbeat, it is a perpetual challenge for the source of a topic to determine where and when to chime in.

    • Anonymous

      Rachel – good point. I know that if I were the author I would definitely want to chime in – perhaps clarify or at least respond to certain points.

  • Mama Bear

    I would agree that a formal response would be great to read.  

    I remember reading the Hunger Game series and immediately being blindsided by how truly remarkable a series it is…I insisted on my two older daughters reading it immediately.  We then had a fantastic talk about how easy it is to lose one’s humanity if the ‘mob’ decrees it to be The Right Thing.Tremendous discussion, that….

    • Anonymous

      I absolutely adore the Hunger Games. I think as a parent, it’s up to us to have conversations about these books, not ban them. That only makes a child want to read it more – and then they have no choice but to discuss with their friends!

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