Young-adult fiction is taking “a dark turn,” writes Katie Roiphe in the Wall Street Journal. But tales of suicide, car wrecks, anorexia and kids fighting to the death for survival aren’t depressing, compared to teens’ other reading choices.
Given the grim story lines, not to mention absence of designer shoes and haircuts that readers of lighter young adult titles are accustomed to, it’s easy to assume that this new batch of young-adult books peddles despair. In fact, the genre is more uplifting than the fizzy escapism that long dominated the young adult marketplace. Today’s bestselling authors are careful to infuse the final scenes of these bleak explorations with an element of hope: The heroine wins the hunger games and does not die, Lia is headed toward recovery at the end of “Wintergirls,” Mia decides to live at the end of “If I Stay,” and Clay reaches out to another desperately unhappy girl in “Thirteen Reasons Why,” in the hope of saving her from Hannah’s fate.
. . . As alarming as these books are, there is in all of this bleakness a wholesome and old-fashioned redemption that involves principles like triumph over adversity and affirmations of integrity. In the end, these investigations of personal disaster are much less depressing than the “Gossip Girl” knockoffs which initially seem frolicky and fun but are actually creepy and morally bereft and leave you feeling utterly hopeless.
I’ve never read any of these books. Are they any good? In my day we had to make do with Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.