The persistent belief that childhood is a rosy, happy time where nothing bad ever happens is directly damaging to children who are, in fact, not having a rosy and happy time. The rise in dark YA isn’t about feeding the depraved tastes of children who enjoy violent videogames. It is about addressing the very real pain and marginalisation experienced by children across the United States who find that the ‘responsible adults’ in their lives fail to act, and it is through young adult fiction that they may find the words to express themselves, to describe their experiences, and the courage to keep going even though no one around them offers support.
Furthermore, many children also grow up with the idea that they are wrong in some way; because their gender doesn’t match the one assigned to them, because they are disabled and surrounded by nondisabled people, because their skin is the wrong colour. Gurdon claims that YA is damaging because it ‘normalises.’ On the contrary, that normalisation is one of the greatest gifts young adult authors can give to their readers, to tell children that, no, they are not freaks for being who they are. That there is nothing wrong with being a gay teen, that you are not irreparably damaged if you are mentally ill. If YA celebrating diverse identities is ‘dark’ and ‘depraved,’ what does that say about the lives of young adults who actually inhabit those identities, and experience constant social pressure to be ‘normal’?