For a start, sick children in books are not new. Just think of Heidi, Little Women, The Secret Garden and What Katy Did. In some of these books, steps back in mock horror, someone dies! Did it stop people reading them? No! There is a reason for this, sometimes children want to read about the reality of their lives and many of them don't live perfect lives. This is not going to change and neither should it. I am not saying that all books should include teenage cancer and self-harm but I do believe if they are relevant to the story and are well told they should remain. I feel the same about sex, drugs and alcohol. I should also admit I am not truly convinced by suicide story lines and whether they fit in at the moment but that in the main is based on the fact that I have not read any of the books mentioned that deal with suicide so don't feel I can comment.
I am an academic as well as a writer and my PhD looked at the representation of sex, drugs and alcohol in British young adult fiction. Yes, I admit the representation has changed and become more graphic but I feel this is only a reflection of what children are able to access via the TV and the Internet. I do not (and neither does my research) see it as a reflection of what children are actually up to. For me, and backed up by my research, books are all about the vicarious experience. The children may never intend to take drugs etc but they want to know how to react in any given situation. This is what books can do, they can provide the vicarious experience between the safe page turning of a good book. It should not be knocked nor should it be dismissed. Books that deal with contentious issues need to remain. They need to offer children a chance to escape and ask questions of themselves and the text in safety. A book also means you can go back to certain bits whenever you want to if you are still unsure. No one is going to know because reading is a private matter.
Reading as a child/teenager is all part of working out who you are. It is all part of the search for an identity. Books are a chance to try on different voices and identities to see how they fit in the safe environment of between the pages.
The article says that there is a risk that it will encourage people to self harm etc if they read these books. Well on a simplistic level, if you read lots of crime stories do you go out there and commit a crime? Yes, there may be a minority that will do something wrong but that is the case for everything and you can't assume that they wouldn't have done it anyway. I also note she mentions Twilight but fails to mention how it shows an abusive relationship as being acceptable. I can only assume she doesn't see that as a problem.
Yes, I am passionate about this as I feel it is important to give children chances to read about life. They may never chose to do that. They may only ever read fantasy but it should not be up to us. I am confident that the gatekeepers that are in place like publishers, editors, booksellers and librarians will protect children from unsuitable books (this could be an issue with self published books but that is for another post and not for today). The most important thing for me as a writer is to provide stories that are well written and that children want to read. I am not all about shock tactics but will use contentious issues if they fit into my story and that is never going to change. The most important thing to me is that we offer books that children can escape into and, as I said earlier, to ask questions of.
Here is a bit of Teenage Dirtbag because it seems appropriate as I used to listen to it with my, then, teenage children and who are now delightful adults despite having lived 'interesting' lives...I know how lucky I am that they have turned out how they have.