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Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Dark Side of YA Literature

No, it's not your imagination.

YA (Young Adult) Literature is growing increasingly dark in subject matter.

In case you missed it, check out the New Times Opinion Page on The Dark Side of Young Adult Fiction.

Hey, at least kids are reading something.

At the same time, however, think of the novels you're reading in class with your students. How many of them aren't in some way fixated on death or loss?

I blogged on that whole issue a few months ago; I guess the NY Times couldn't reach me for comment.


gael lynch said...

I think this has probably been the battle cry in YA from the adult point of view since the dawn of time, right? But, when you think about it, what better time to try on a little of life's angst. Teens thrive on drama, I know this from firsthand experience! A) I was a teen listening to all kinds of loud rock and roll. and B) The preteens I teach are immersed in it, and that's something that only gets worse as they move into grades seven and eight. Often the most authentic gut-wrenching writing comes through in the deepest and darkest of plots. Laurie Halse Anderson is a perfect example of that! I write MG and YA, and believe me, it's hard to escape. Thanks for your thoughts here, Keith. In as much as we all love a good fantastical escape, all of these books...take the Hunger Games for example, have to darken to deepen the plot.

Keith Schoch said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Gael! I have to admit I loved the Hunger Games, which would certainly have been less entertaining if the game hadn't been played "for keeps." This "darkness" might also be why I'd become terrified at the thought of teaching above grade 6!

Melissa (i swim for oceans) said...

I have to admit, I'm loving the dark trend...colour me crazy. Granted, most of what I read is dystopian and paranormal and sci-fi, but I think the subject matter resonates better when it's dark...that's just my humble opinion, of course though :)

I'm your newest follower from the blog hop!

Keith Schoch said...

I'm totally with you on the Dystopian stuff! Some awesome new titles out there!

Barb said...

Hi Keith!
I'm a new follower! I've found you through the hops. I work in a high school library and I agree with you completely! At least they are reading! Once my students are finished the Twilight series, I move them on to something a bit more complicated, but along the same genre and they enjoy themselves so much they forget they are reading!

Barb at Sugarbeat's Books

Valentine's Giveaway

Phae Phae said...

Hey! I'm a new follower! Check me out at
p.s. That is a really good point.

Trisha said...

I'm a college professor, so my concerns are a bit different (we don't read YAL), but the books we read are relatively dark (The Picture of Dorian Gray, W;t, etc.). It must be strange to find YAL that is both interesting and not too dark.

Keith Schoch said...

Hey, I've seen your blog! Good stuff. I'll hop over to be sure I'm following. Thanks for checking in!

Keith Schoch said...

Barb: I don't envy your position, working in a high school library. Tough crowd! But at least you can keep current with what interests them!

Keith Schoch said...

Trisha: probably no self-selected titles in college, huh? I was an English major, and I only recall reading short stories. If we EVER read a novel, it left zero impression on me. But hey, I still love reading and writing, so the profs did something right!

bookdout said...

In general, that fact that they are reading is more important than what they are reading. Besides thinking back to books read at school - most of them were all about lost love, murder, betrayal and mayhem - including every single Shakesperian tragedy. So I don't think the themes have changed that much

BTW thanks for stopping by my blog earlier
Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out

Sonette said...

Hmm I agree with all the comments although I think some of the darkness is also due to the fact that exceedingly more adults (like me! hehe) are reading YA literature and we (me) really want a bit more depth and darkness to the stories. Also when I was younger I was reading a lot of Stephen King and Dean Koontz and you really don't get a lot more twisted than that. It does fuel the imagination and I think that's healthy no matter how dark the book.

Btw thanks for stopping by my blog, I'm following back!

Sonette @ Bookworm Blog

Jon said...

"at least kids are reading..."
LOL. My wife and I have been lifelong avid readers. We did all the right things with our children, reading to them when they were young, having plenty of books in the house for them, and all that, but they just never made the transition to reading for enjoyment. My daughter, now that she is married and settled down, has finally begun to pick up a book once in a while to read for pleasure, and my son is "encouraged" as a Marine NCO to read from the Commandant's list, so perhaps there's hope for them still.
Thanks for stopping by my blog the other day. The stuff you review here is quite interesting, and I'll have to check my local library for some of these titles. Gotcha on my follow list so I can keep track. Thanks!
The Steel Bookshelf

Keith Schoch said...

Jon, I hear ya! My own brother was NOT a reader, despite all my parents' efforts, but he read what he needed and did well regardless. I think some people will always just read those few things that interest them, and disregard the rest.

Keith Schoch said...

Sonette- I'm a big Stephen King fan as well; wish that had been on my high school reading list!

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