Thursday, April 15, 2010

My Two Cents: What's with all the death in YA?

Now I am a person who will definitely say, don't like it? don't read it then. But to be perfectly honest what is with all of the teen suicide and and dying lately?

What kind of message does this send to our young ones?

I can tell you after this little rant session, I will probably go and read all of these books because yes, they do sound interesting. But I am 18, technically an adult and I understand the repercussions of taking ones own life as I have tried to do so. But when you are 13, 14, 15 and reading novel after novel about teens taking the easy way out and their friends moving on and getting over it and everything being all lovey dovey happy happy, that isn't the real world, and I'm worried that young people won't understand that.

I am usually the person that looks down on rant sessions like this because it is up to the reader to decide what is appropriate, but coming from a self-destructive background and seeing influences like this worry me.

Keep in mind that I am NOT condemning the authors or publishers as these are excellent books about a tough subject. I am also not saying that young people should not read them. What I am trying to say is that when people do read them, please don't take the subject lightly because once that path is taken, there is no going back and people don't recover quickly and move on, it continues to hurt for a long time afterwards.

After a few comments I have noticed that people are focusing on the fact that I said "young people" more than the fact of the original topic. This was not to condemn young people. Yes there are some 13 yr olds who are more mature than others, there are some 14 yr olds who have lost people and 15 yr olds who understand and have even felt depression. But how many of those are out there, really. What percentage do the "some"'s make up? Not much. Most kids are still just kids, who read books for the fun of it and like to swap with their friends on the weekends. Not everyone comes from a harsh or mature background, not everyone understands.

I will give you an example of who this post was for. A girl, 14 years old, sees that her friend, who is a cutter receives attention from her peers to try and help her out of this situation which she no longer wants to be in, so the girl also goes and cuts herself deliberately waves her mangled arm in front of all her classmates faces so that they will also run to her aid. One of her peers points out that most usual self-cutters try to hide what they do, so the girl then invents a story about having a harsh home-life, parents hitting her and not feeding her, telling her that she is fat and ugly. One of her friends knows the family, her mother is friends with the girls mother, she knows that the home abuse is not real. Then the girl starts talking of suicide, how she can no longer go on, how she can't see where her life is taking her or why she has to go on. She works at a child care centre now.

This girl, this attention seeker, made light of these situations so that she would have the most people come running when she shed a tear. She didn't take into consideration the self-mutilator who recently tattooed her body to cover the scars she left on herself, she didn't take into consideration the boy who would come to school with bruises on his ribs and at one time a broken finger because his parents beat him every night, she didn't take into consideration the guy whose depression was so bad, he became an alcoholic at 13 years old and would drink himself to sleep most nights, and she didn't take into consideration the person who was suicidal or the person that had lost a sister to suicide.

That girl, those people, that situation were all real. That girl who had no understanding of the situations she was pretending to be in didn't realise how bad they really were, didn't realise how much she was hurting those around her who had to feel this pain everyday.

Those are the type of people this post was aimed at, not the minority of people who understand depression and suicide. And if there really are that many young people who have been through depression and have been suicidal. Then really, that is just sad.


Julie said...

I'm 15, so I don't know everything, but I do know this.

Most readers, despite how young, have experienced death in some way. We all know it happens, we mourn, and life goes on, no matter how it happened. We understand that it is something that happens and it's not something we can control, but something we must conquer.

I've also been depressed a few years ago. And I also know when I was that sad, I didn't want to read. I wasn't thinking about reading books. Even know when I get down, I don't want to read a downer book, I want something happy. So even somebody close to the position where they would be thinking about it probably wouldn't read these books out of disinterest or just wanting to be in a better mood when somebody' just have a crappy day.

But all this could just be me speaking from dealing with the people close to me who are, admittedly, a bit more mature than most our age.

lanna-lovely said...

"but coming from a self-destructive background and seeing influences like this worry me"

The first part of that is the same for me too... I'm 21, and I've been there (my dad died, so I know that the pain of losing someone close to you doesn't go away and I've been depressed and suicidal and self destructive before and I've had more than one suicidal friend and I've had to be the one to talk them out of it - one tried it).

But seeing the issue addressed in YA lit doesn't worry me because it's not like the books are pro-suicide or encouraging it in any way... if anything, they discourage it and if I had read books like those back at the lowest point in my life I think it would've been a hell of a lot easier to get through it (books like Thirteen Reasons Why and Looking for Alaska).

Suicide happens. Death happens. Self harm, eating disorders, bullying... all of that bad stuff happens in real life and I think it's a good thing that authors choose to include more difficult subjects like that in their books because it makes them more true to real life.

I don't think there is anything wrong with rant posts like this, you're perfectly entitled to your opinion, I just wanted to say I disagree.

Pointing out that it's not a subject to be taken lightly is kind of unneccessary and I would be kind of offended if I was younger and reading this post because it sounds like you're assuming young people will read these books and get this romanticized view of these harsh topics... they're smarter than that, give them a bit more credit (I mean, I have a bunch of online friends in their teens -- my blog co-author being one -- and they don't take the subject lightly at all).

It kind of surprised me that you're only 18 and writing a post like this because really you're practically still one of the "young people" you're referring to.

Age isn't the issue, it's the person reading... I've known 13 year olds who have dealt with eating disorders and self harm, depression, drugs and being suicidal. And I know people in their mid-20's who have made it through their lives blissfully ignorant of that kind of suffering. The 13 year olds will read books dealing with those issues with a level of understanding that the older people won't even come close to.

Wings said...

Julie - when I was depressed i also didn't want to read, but I know people who have turned to books in their times of need, books about depression, books to comfort them in their way of thinking, to think that it's ok to feel what they're feeling.

I had a friend whose brother didn't turn to books, but movies and seeing someone deal with his depression and the fact that his family moved on helped him think that his own way out was ok, because his mum and brother would move on. He commited suicide in Dec 08.

lanna-lovely - i am not condemning young people when i say take it seriously. I come from having friends who used cutting and suicidal thoughts for attention, after seeing other people suffering depression receive attention. I am not saying that all 14 yr olds are like that girl, what i am trying to get across is that although they might be stories, this is real.
When you read a scary book or watch a scary movie, what do you say to yourself? It's just a movie, that's not real, it can't hurt me. And you sleep well at night.

This post is not aimed at 13 yr olds who are smart enough to know the difference between real suicide and fictional suicide, this is for the ones that don't understand, the one's that think suicide is for the stories, and that if it happened in real life, people will just cope with it, like in the stories.
And your right, why limit this to young people, add in the 20 - 30 yr olds that haven't felt pain.

This post was not aimed at condemning anyone, just to reiterate the message of not everything should be taken with a grain of salt.

lanna-lovely said...

Mhmm, but really, people do know the difference between real suicide and fictional suicide.

Those people that self harm for attention? They're not getting their ideas from fiction books (hell, reading the books may give them a better understanding of the issue and why they shouldn't just fake it for attention). Again, I've known the people that have done the attention seeking thing... really, the fact they did that just shows they have other issues and it wasn't caused by YA lit.

People know that suicide is serious... using your scary movie analogy, of course people watch those and tell themselves it's not real and can't hurt them but they're also very aware of the fact that if they were in that position in real life that it would be entirely different.

Reading about fictional characters is different from real life, of course it is... but just because they're reading it as fiction doesn't mean that people won't be aware of the fact that if it happened in real life that it would be serious and life changing (because people generally fear having people close to them die and most people fear death to different degrees - so they know the seriousness of it).

Even people who "haven't felt pain", as you put it (although everyone has or will experience pain at some point in their life), understand how serious it is... they may not be able to read and relate to the issues because they have first hand experience but that doesn't mean they're not aware of how much something like suicide can tear peoples lives apart.

My point is basically that, yes, it is an issue that should be taken seriously... but there isn't really any need to tell people to take it seriously because anyone with a brain knows the seriousness of it (and really, the types of people reading these books tend to be pretty intelligent). It's kind of like telling people to take what they see on the news seriously, there's not much need to do that because people already know.

Wings said...

lanna - you have your opinion, i will have mine. But thinking that everyone has felt pain is kind of ignorant. There are people that make it to 60 without ever losing someone close to them. Not everyone can understand every kind of pain until it directly affects them.
and using your analogy, you can tell people to take the news seriously, but most of them only turn on for the first break of a huge news story and the weather.

lanna-lovely said...

Sorry, forgot to mention this, about what you said to Julie:

"I had a friend whose brother didn't turn to books, but movies and seeing someone deal with his depression and the fact that his family moved on helped him think that his own way out was ok, because his mum and brother would move on. He commited suicide in Dec 08."

First of all, I'm sorry about your friends brother.

But, when someone is truly serious about suicide and they really want to die and don't want to be saved then they don't need books or movies to push them over the edge, they're already there on their own.

If your friends brother hid his depression and didn't let anyone know that he wanted to die then movies or not, he was serious about it and even if he didn't see any movies about suicide, if no one noticed he was depressed then the end result would have likely been the same anyway.

If you read/have read the book Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher then you'll understand what I mean more... the main character in that just wanted to die, a part of her wanted to be saved too but she didn't really make any effort to make that happen because the suicidal part was the dominant side of her.

My sisters friend hung herself a few years ago, no warning - she just wanted to die and no movies or books pushed her to it, it's just when depression gets that far and the person isn't strong enough to cope with it and people don't notice the signs, then it'll happen.

The reason I didn't kill myself was because I think suicide is selfish (and I'm just not that selfish - my friend who OD'd didn't care that it was selfish, some people don't, but I did) and a part of me just really didn't want to die, I just wanted an escape from the pain and that seemed like the only out at the time.

But the people who really want to die, they convince themselves that the people they love will be better off without them or that no one will care if they're gone (or it just gets to the stage where they can't bring themselves to care, all they have room to feel is the pain and emptiness and they just want it to stop). They convince themselves of that just fine on their own, they don't need books or movies to help them come to those false conclusions.

Wings said...

your generalising, not everyone is that way, just as not all 13 year olds are immature.

lanna-lovely said...

"But thinking that everyone has felt pain is kind of ignorant. There are people that make it to 60 without ever losing someone close to them."

It is not ignorant. I just don't rate my problems higher than everyone elses. Everyone DOES feel pain at some point in their lives, just different forms of it and different degrees.

"Not everyone can understand every kind of pain until it directly affects them."

True, but you don't need to have experienced something first hand to take it seriously... it may be more difficult to understand, but that doesn't mean people don't take it seriously.

Think of something bad you've never experienced (I don't know you so I can't say, but possibly examples: rape, murder of a loved one, a baby dying from cot death, domestic abuse, natural disasters like earth quakes and things like that)... even if you haven't experienced those things first hand, you can still read about them and understand them to an extent and you take it seriously (and wouldn't you be a little insulted if someone was telling you to take those things seriously, assuming that you wouldn't because you had never experienced them yourself first hand?).

Pain is universal, just because someone hasn't experienced pain induced by depression or suicide, it doesn't mean they're unable to understand the seriousness of it and know that it would cause great pain.

"and using your analogy, you can tell people to take the news seriously, but most of them only turn on for the first break of a huge news story and the weather."

...That doesn't really make sense, it's completely irrelevant. My point was that when people watch the news they do take it seriously therefor telling them to take it seriously is unneccessary so your twist on my analogy makes no sense and doesn't relate to what we're discussing in any way.

I just give people a little more credit than thinking they need to be told that suicide is serious and shouldn't be taken lightly.

I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree though.

Book Monster said...

I think the books are to show readers, of that age, what the real deal is. I've read Hold Still, and you really understand the after affects of suicide.

lanna-lovely said...

Okay, after reading the addition to your post I get more what you mean now. But, one thing:

"Those are the type of people this post was aimed at, not the minority of people who understand depression and suicide. And if there really are that many young people who have been through depression and have been suicidal. Then really, that is just sad."

People like THAT, the attention seekers, they are the minority. And you said it yourself, the girl you know that did that got the idea after seeing how people rallied round someone who actually did self harm, she didn't read it in a book or see it on a TV show or movie (and from what I've seen of issues of self harm and suicide in works of fiction, they don't glorify it or make it seem like a good idea, they do show the pain it causes and discourage it - if someone reads or watches them and doesn't get that then it's the person who is the problem, not the fact the issues were brought up in the story).

But yeah, generally most people do take these things seriously. You said there aren't many kids who understand self harm and depression and all of that (although, I disagree, you'd be surprised by just how many there is and they can hide it pretty well - I did, on the outside I seemed like a happy person but it was just an act) but there are even less kids who are dumb enough to cut for attention and all of that.

Also, someone doesn't have to have a difficult home life to suffer from depression or have issues. A person who hasn't had anything majorly bad happen to them can get depression.

Someone who cuts for attention has issues too, because they want the attention for a reason. There are two girls I used to know who cut for attention (one of them even brought vodka to school and everything). They were doing it for attention, but one of them... her dad died of cancer a few years before and the other has learning difficulties and some physical illnesses that make her insecure and she didn't get along with her mum, they wanted the attention because they wanted to feel like people cared and they wanted people to know they're not okay (because someone who would cut for attention is not okay, a perfectly happy person without any issues doesn't do that).

Look up Munchausen syndrome, it's an actual illness where people fake illness (mental or physical) to get attention and sympathy.

You should read the book Sickened by Julie Gregory, it's a memoir/true story about a girl whose mum had Munchausen by Proxy syndrome (which is a little different because it's getting sympathy and attention by making people think a child is sick).

Sorry, I ramble a lot. I'm just overly opinionated and you happened to choose a topic I have strong opinions on anyway (but I enjoy debating with people, so don't take this personally - it's fine if you don't agree with me, I just wanted to explain why I disagree with things you said). :]

Wings said...

I don't take offence :) im very opinionated too, and i liked the fact that i found someone who doesnt agree with what i said so i could find out why.

I still dont agree with you, but hey it would be boring if we agreed :)


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