What probably bugged me the most about the WSJ YA piece was its blithe anecdotalism: the author found four YA books that (she thought) proved her point but ignored not just everything that had been published since The Chocolate War but the many, many books being published for teens today to the point of looking like an ignoramus even to those who would like to agree with her. As I said yesterday, to wring your hands about contemporary problem novels and not even mention Ellen Hopkins (who has an audience far larger than that for the four books Gurdon mentions combined) or, as I think of it today, Laurie Halse Anderson, makes it easier to dismiss you as a Sarah Palin-like no-nothing crank, chirping merrily on about Paul Revere ringing those nonexistent bells in defense of the as-yet unthought-of Second Amendment to a still-unwritten Constitution. It's as if I took my favorite bad picture book, The Gift, about a personified pumpkin who agrees to be made into pie so that people might eat, and said "See? This is what's wrong with picture books today! No wonder people aren't buying them."
I'm reminded of the time when, after many years of not watching TV, I randomly caught an episode of Married . . .with Children and saw a visual blowjob joke involving an eclair. What??? This was not on Bewitched! When I started editorializing madly to my friends who a) had watched TV regularly over time and b) were completely up on the controversy Al Bundy et al regularly courted, I quickly learned that the problem was not so much the show but that I had not been paying attention.
But I have been paying attention to YA publishing for thirty years (here's my take on the last Bleakness Outrage) and can confidently tell Megan Cox Gurdon that you can find an example of just about anything in its purview, and that the books she cites are far from typical of the genre as a whole, which in the main has been given over to high-concept, hook-heavy beach books whose most alarming characteristic is their resemblance to one another and sheer replaceability. Do you think the Wall Street Journal would like an op-ed about what's wrong with that?