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NYTimes Looks at “Teenage Wastelands”

I love stories, and in particular, teen stories.  But I’m not so sure that there’s a story in the fact that there are teen stories. Follow?  In recent years it seems like every month or so there is a new article out dissecting “trends” in ya lit.  And while I love talking about ya lit as much as any other fan, I’m finding it a bit tiring.  I don’t mean to sound so down on Charles McGrath’s February 20th article in the New York Times, “Teenage Wastelands.” I was eager to read it and agreed with many of his points, though I thought overall he was a bit condescending.  But you know what always gets me about the trend articles? I always feel a little bit bad for the books published before it was a trend.  I think we can all agree that Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone was not the very first book for kids that involved magical fantasy.  And Hunger Games was not the very first book that was dystopian.  And yet so often as soon as a “trend” is identified it’s as if a genre or an idea never existed before (I happen to believe that in fashion and fiction there is very little that is 100% never thought of before).  I was pleased that in his article McGrath actually does point to Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery when he discusses Hunger Games.
What do you think? Does the article give current ya fiction a fair shake?

–Sarah Debraski, currently reading Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

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Sarah Debraski

2 Comments

  1. I thought this part was particularly distasteful: “What distinguishes this kind of dystopian fiction from its adult counterpart — beyond its being less dire and apocalyptic — is a certain element of earnestness, even preachiness, and the moral is pretty transparent: be yourself. ” That doesn’t seem to me to be the moral of, for example, the Hunger Games, not to mention several other dystopias I can think of (Ship Breaker, for examples – which, by the way, he really should have mentioned!) I do agree that YA dystopias tend to have a more hopeful, redemptive quality, but don’t tell me that Mockingjay wasn’t dire.

    Ugh. I always get excited to read “big news” coverage of YA literature, but I’m usually disappointed.

  2. I think this is just an example of some frumpy, closed-minded adult who thinks he knows everything about young adults and young adult fiction. Certainly not every YA book that has come out in the last five years or so is as fantastic as others. But I think he is seriously wrong when he says that adults only think they understand teens. Twilight’s success I think stands as a testament that these adults authors understand exactly what teens are going through and what they want to read.

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