Mark Haddon (no significant spoillers)

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Fri Feb 20 08:07:37 EST 2004


Charlie wrote:

>If they think they'll sell more by putting *To
>Kill a Mockingbird* under YA I can't really see why they shouldn't. I loved
>it as a young teen myself, along with Sherlock Holmes, and the 5th Armada
>Book of Ghosts, and Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators, and
>Wuthering Heights (and in those carefree days I wasn't too bothered about
>which of them were children's books). What's the objection? Is it to do with
>using up the limited children's shelfspace? Now *that* I'd have more
>sympathy with.

I think (from previous discussion here) that the objection is probably that
YA persons are supposed to be protected in some way from having to face the
issues that are present in TKaM.

We have to protect our young from *something*, because it's a human
instinct to do with the survival of the species back when we all lived in
caves, and lacking animal predators of an obvious kind we spannel about
protecting them from all sorts of perceived threats, of which the entire
"grown-up" world is one or rather many-many.  Quite why thinking about
serious things like life and death and justice and honour and procreation
is seen as something grown-ups do (or at least should do) and children
don't (or shouldn't) completely baffles me, especially when I look at how
very little most "grown-ups" actually seem to think about such things at
all most of the time and how much thinking about them seems to pre-occupy
the young, but that seems to be the way of it.  And the main difficulty
always seems to be in deciding when or at what age someone stops being a
child who isn't meant to have to think about such things and starts being a
grown-up who *is* meant to, which makes YA a bit of a mine-field.

It is terribly difficult to make rules for entire age-groups, and if one
starts to admit that not all fifteen-year-olds are the same the whole
business becomes downright impossible, but in order to protect people
properly one has to have rules.

Then the YAs decide which sort of person they are going to be: the sort
trying to make blanket rules for everybody and living their lives within
the rules they have made and found and accepted, or the sort making up
their own rules for only themselves and according to the circumstances in
which they are at any given moment, and either ignoring the blanket rules
other people have tried to make for them or working out ways to get away
with breaking or subverting those rules and getting on with whatever they
happen to want to do within their *own* set of rules -- or even using the
blanket rules to achieve the opposite of what the people who made the rules
set out to achieve.

DWJ seems to write books mostly about the second sort of person.  A lot of
her work involves people finding the ways round the blanket rules, one way
and another, it seems to me.  Sometimes the blanket rules get demolished in
the process.  :-)

Minnow


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