If you’re anything like me, your teen-lit-loving heart gave a leap when you heard about the movie Young Adult. The film’s main character is a YA author, it’s written by Diablo Cody (who reached household-name status with Juno), and it features an incredible poster styled after the cheesy series covers that we all recognize with a grimace of nostalgia. Take a gander at the trailer if you haven’t yet:
Charlize Theron plays Mavis Gary, a 37-year-old divorcee who works as a ghostwriter for a languishing YA series. As she struggles to produce the final book, ignoring her publisher’s frustrated voicemails and eavesdropping on teens for dialogue, the audience gets a painfully clear view of a highly flawed protagonist. Her high-rise apartment is trashed; her dating life consists of one-night stands; she pulls out her own hair; and starting the day with Diet Coke and ending it in a drunken collapse is a regular occurrence. When Mavis hears that her high-school flame, Buddy, has just had a baby, she sets off to her old hometown to win him back–in spite of the fact that he is happily married.
Without giving away too much, it’s safe to say that the title refers only tangentially to the literary genre we love here at The Hub. As Maureen Johnson has pointed out, it does portray a non-romanticized view of the writer’s life (looming deadlines, panicked calls, staring down the blank computer screen) that’s probably closer to reality than movies often show us. And fans of Juno will recognize the wry, cutting tone of the script and the darkly hilarious one-liners. But “young adult” refers to the much larger theme of being an adult who hasn’t grown up. Mavis isn’t just immature in her physical habits: she sees the world in black and white, and fosters delusions that damage herself and those around her.