Dark Conflict in YA Books

I’ve noticed a trend in young adult literature that I don’t remember being the case when I was a teen. While browsing popular YA fiction web sites, I keep running across books about the darker “hot topics” of today’s culture–teen molestation by older men, self-mutilation, suicide, etc.

Is it just me, or were YA books a bit less grim ten years ago? (And yes, it has been ten years since I was in my mid-teens. I’m old. So sue me.) I remember a lot of books about prejudice, teen sex, murder mysteries, etc. Not so much molestation and binge-drinking and cutting. Maybe that stuff was out there and I just didn’t read it?

I’m not complaining that books like this exist, mind you. The issues presented in them are real problems, and we’d be foolish to pretend otherwise. But I worry about the sheer percentage of teen literature that’s turning this direction. The threshold of darkness or shock value needed to keep teens interested climbs ever higher. I have to wonder: do all of these books really deal with the issues in a positive way, or do some authors simply cash in on teen voyerism?

Call me naive, but I think a steady diet of shock value books makes teens world-weary before their time. It’s one thing to know about the issues and be cautious of them, quite another to focus on them day in and day out.

For example, I’ve dealt with anxiety and depression before, and it’s always refreshing to find a book that acknowledges that struggle. But I don’t read about it all the time. I need other types of books to remind me that not all of life is that dark. Otherwise, I’m wallowing in it instead of learning from it.

What are your thoughts? Am I totally off base, or do I make a shred of sense? Have you noticed this trend, or am I blowing it out of proportion?

RHDAvis

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2 Comments

Filed under YA lit

2 responses to “Dark Conflict in YA Books

  1. Dr. D

    You are correct – it’s not quite a tsunami, but a significant tidal wave of such books. My guess is it’s like the movies and tv shows: you have to out-shock, out-gross the last offering in order to get noticed. The culture seems fixated on sensation rather than sense. I’d much rather read a well-written book with insights into life.

  2. I have to say I agree with Dr. D. Our society is too enthralled with the negative aspects of life. Which isn’t to say that stories can’t be realistically written but too much is too much.

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