Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Romeo and Juliet, They Never Felt This Way I Bet

Last week's Wall Street Journal article condemning the YA genre for its dark themes, certainly lit a fire in a lot of people's pants and by extension their blogs.

As a YA reader and writer, I was cranky about it too.

As a teenager, I would have been pissed.

Note: I got mad when servers gave me the kid's menu. "I'm 13, what do I look like a baby or something?"

Since I am a freakishly patient adult, I did not get angry. Instead I was filled with sympathetic angst for teen me. The idea that dark stories are inappropriate for teens is the crux of the article. Nobody wants to be told, something is off limits. This is especially true for teenagers. Their independence is so close, they can almost taste it.

Look at Romeo & Juliet. What if the Capulets and Montagues had given the kids carte blanche to date whoever they wanted? Would the couple have rushed into marriage? Into their deaths? I don't think so. I think they were forced to decide how much they cared for each other, significantly sooner than they would have been otherwise. Their families pushed them to extreme behavior. They were forced to cling to one another. They weren't just crazy teens in love, they were making a stand for their independence.

Oh, and speaking about Romeo & Juliet, that's pretty dark, no? I read it in 9th grade English with Mrs. Trotta. And the play has got it all; forbidden love, drugs, violence, murder, suicide.

Really, isn't Romeo & Juliet one of the first dark YA stories? Some might think it a stretch but the main characters are teens, struggling against their parents' and society's oppressive rules.

And you thought Angels were a new YA theme
The article writer may wonder, if it is smart to teach 14 and 15 year-olds that dying to be with the one you love is romantic? Or do educators trust that the teens are smart enough to see what makes Romeo & Juliet a tragedy? Teens can learn from the mistakes of the doomed young lovers. They see what could have been if the couple slowed down, let their hormones cool off and found another way, a less dramatic way to be together. They also could have found a more reliable message boy and their whole plan would have gone off without a hitch, but I digress.

I may never understand why some stories, with dark themes are okay for teens to read, even assigned, while others are not.

Maybe one blogger was right when she suggested the YA haters were judging the books by their covers. 

I hope this puts things into perspective.

1 comment:

  1. You're so right! I planned to write about this too, but at this point I feel like I'd just be repeating everyone's argument. I never would have thought about Romeo and Juliet, but that's an excellent point!