The Weekly Debate (10): Drugs and YA

source: NYDailyNews

Many YA books today deal with drugs in some shape or form, and I'm not going to lie, I like reading about drug problems, as perverse as that may sound. However, I feel like some YA books are starting to send the message, perhaps unintentionally, that teenagers doing drugs is acceptable, "normal" even. And I cannot stress enough how that IS NOT OKAY. Did everyone hear that? As simple as it sounds, DRUGS ARE BAD FOR YOU and you should run away from them like they're the devil. Because they really are, in disguise. *shifty eyes* So, should books be promoting drugs to innocent little teens like me? N-O.

Let's get some facts straight:

A) Teens do drugs.
B) Teens like drugs.
C) Teens die from drugs.

If A, B, and C prove to be true, therefore DOING DRUGS IS NOT COOL AT ALL.

I'm not going to lie and say I'm a saint - I'm not, and neither are most, if not all, other teens. I know friends of friends who do drugs, but since I don't actually know them, I can only think of them with dissaproval. As for my close friends, they aren't into drugs at all. I don't need to do drugs as a teen and neither do my friends.

As stereotypical and harsh as it may sound, the people that regularly read books generally aren't the ones who are willing to screw over their life with drugs. Do you see that kid who does marijuana behind the school during class going to the school library and checking out YA books? Not really. So though there are teens that do drugs and, thus, believe that doing drugs is normal, the ones that actually read YA books are most likely teens that haven't done drugs but now possibly conclude that - oh! - maybe doing drugs will make me popular... NOT. I recently saw an ad for some great Disney Hyperion books in the an issue of Seventeen magazine, soon followed by an article about the bad effects of getting high. I think that sort of proves that books and drug-abusers do not mesh. Sorry.

I really, really hate singling out authors/books, but am I the only one that was slightly disturbed by The Beautiful Between by Alyssa B. Sheinmel? (SPOILERS! stop reading now if you don't want to hear them) Essentially, the two main characters bonded over SMOKING. And may I please emphasize again that cigarettes = drugs = NOT COOL. What aggravated me the most about Connelly and Jeremy's daily late night smoking was that Connelly didn't even like smoking, yet she still goes outside and pretends to smoke with Jeremy so that he'll stay with her. To her, it's the only way to keep this super cool/awesome/rich/[insert other great praise here] prince. Excuse me for not having my eyes mist at this sentimental moment, but it sounds like peer pressure to me. I don't think I need to say again that drugs are NOT... yeah. Oh, and don't forget the part where fingerless smoking gloves are a sign of intimate affection -- right. I haven't seen any debates on this yet, so perhaps I'm the only one who feels so strongly about drugs being the stem of a relationship but that's just the message that I get as a fellow teenager. Am I just silly, immature, and overreacting? Maybe. *Side note: Please don't misconstrue this as me bashing the book because though I strongly object against this specific part of Connelly and Jeremy's relationship, there is still redemption to be found in subtle messages of loss and moving on.

There can be an argument made that adding drugs makes a story more realistic. I'll openly say that, yes, it often does and, in fact, can be the reason I enjoy a book more. But what I'm saying is it's about HOW you use drugs in a story. Books such as Crank by Ellen Hopkin and Go Ask Alice both talk about drugs but they talk about the negative effects of them in gory detail -- and that's what makes these books so amazing. Gory detail isn't necessary though, and alcohol is denounced in lighter books such as Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers and Leaving Paradise by Simone Elkeles. These books prove that there are many great YA books out there that are trying to address serious problems, but there's also the fact that there are the scattered ones that, while they don't promote drug use, don't discourage it either and instead regard it as normal.

You know and I know that drugs are harmful. But I also know that my little sister read YA books in elementary school, and it would kill me, as well as possibly herself, if she got the wrong message because she didn't know better. Books need to say that drugs are BAD, even if subtly; it doesn't need to be a huge proclamation, but they definitely don't need to continue reinforcing stereotypes like the one that all rock stars do drugs. Really. What books today really need to say is: Don't go smoke to be someone you're not. Don't go drink away your problems. Don't give up some, or even all, of your life for a temporary high.

Hey, it's possible that I'm just extremely sheltered and overreacting teen girl. It's possible that you don't agree. It's possible that you think I'm too morally uptight. It's possible that I am way paranoid. (However, it's certain that I still do NOT like The Beautiful Between's application of smoking.)

Since there are so many possibilities, what do you think of YA books today in concern with drugs? Do you think things need to change or are they fine as is?

-- Looking for another fun question? Visit Eleni's latest Monday's Question of the Day over at La Femme Readers! :)