Judges and winners of the Carnegie medal have often come under attack for awarding the prestigious prize to novels deemed amoral. This argument believes young people are impressionable and vulnerable to psychological harm. Examples include Melvin Burgess's portrayal of heroin addicts, teen runaways, squatters, sexual awakening, and teenage prostitution in his 1997 Carnegie winning young adult novel, "Junk." "Junk" was largely criticized by press who feared his novel might encourage drug abuse. Kevin Brook has also been criticized for winning the Carnegie medal in 2014 for his contentious exploration of heroin addiction, attempted rape, enforced imprisonment, murder, and physical and mental abuse in "The Bunker Diary." With its refusal to entertain a happy ending like most young adult fiction, some critics claim "The Bunker Club" is too realistic and not suitable for children, labeling it as vile and dangerous. The list doesn't end here. Young adult authors are increasingly creating fiction of a bleaker or more disturbing nature. Young adult authors who use shock factors and sensationalize sex, drugs, and violence to sell novels may be acting irresponsibly.
Young adult novels can be a reflection of the good and bad parts of society at any given time. Difficult or contentious topics can be seen as groundbreaking social commentary, and adolescents have the right to be educated on them. It is irrational to hide children from the adult world when they are already exposed to it. Young people have the right to understand the world they live in. Young adult novels help young people become vigilant and knowledgeable about situations they may encounter as they move from their teenage years into adulthood.
Rejecting the premises