I confess, this post over at Mother Jones (entitled “Is Being a Modern Teen Really an Endless Slog of Existential Angst?”) made me smile:
I was just at the bookstore, and on a whim I browsed through a bunch of “Teen Fiction” titles. Good God. I’ve never seen such a pile of depressing writing in my life. Everyone is sick, abandoned, kidnapped, bullied, overweight, comes from a broken family, survived a school shooting, or caught in the middle of a gothic horror. The horror books actually seemed the most uplifting.
I dunno. Maybe they all have happy endings? In any case, if these books are typical of what teens read these days, I’m halfway surprised that any of them make it out of adolescence with their psyches intact.
I know that every time YA books are criticized in a high-profile but general way, there’s always a furious push-back from the YA community (and the push-back usually includes many excellent points, often pointing out that there are many, many exceptions to whatever “rule” someone is declaring).
I gotta say, this blog post resonates with me more than a little bit. I’ve always had a very low threshold for angst and despair. I have read some wonderfully angst-y books, and I’m sure I’ll read more in the future. But for the most part, the world seems bad enough to me without dwelling on how hopeless and terrible it all is.
Part of the reason I wrote Geography Club (in the 1990s) was that I soooooo tired of depressing teen stories, especially stories of gay teens where everything was always so tragic. (I confess I was really disappointed when I first saw the cover that HarperCollins had chosen for the book: the model’s face was so dour and gloomy! I felt like it didn’t capture the humor or the impishness of my book at all. Why couldn’t he be peeking out of that classroom smiling a little bit?)
And, of course, anyone who knows me knows that I thought dystopian teen fiction become very, very tired around, oh, say, 2006.
One of the reasons I loved the movie Tomorrowland was that it directly took on our current fascination with the doom-and-gloom (targeting YA books in particular). I also liked The Martian because it showed us a world where problems were solvable, and our leaders were not all corrupt and inept (which, frankly, I think is more accurate).
I know YA is now a massive genre, and there are lots of exceptions to the “everything is depressing!” rule (including, ahem, my own books). But I still think there’s truth behind what this blog post is saying.
What do you guys think?