The title of Katie Roiphe’s recent WSJ article was spot on. I’m a sucker for good copy writing, and it was enough to make me want to keep reading. (Remember kids, a good headline and snappy introduction is all it takes!)
Her premise is interesting, that young adults are now attracted to literature that is darker and grimmer than a few years ago.Or what I imagine will be a less generic summation, that darker, grimmer literature is now making it’s way to the bestseller lists in a way that was never before. (As Michael Whitlow, WSJ community member so astutely pointed out, dark YA fiction is a genre that has been around for ages, he mentions S.E Hinton’s The Outsiders from 1967.)
Having recently graduated from the Young Adults market demographic, I agree with Ms. Rophie’s observation. (Or maybe this is desperately wishful thinking that that young girls are over reading Gossip Girl/A-list/Clique/Bitchy, “rich girls running around with Palm Pre’s and Prada messenger bags” books. And I quote–“Was there any bliss quite like the first five minutes in a hot tub? Well, yes, actually. Ben. Sex with Ben had been that kind of bliss. . . . Would sex with Scott offer that kind of bliss?” This is a 17 year-old internal monologue in one of the above named books. A barf bag on table 4 please!)
As far back as 1999 when Harry Potter hit the book shelves, the mainstream YA fiction market has been in a state of transition. As we grew up with him, the books did get grimmer, more realistic, and with the Prisoner of Azkaban, the first time in the series that it truely got dark. Harry was up again Sirius Black, (who was then thought to be) a raging mad man, but a man all the same. He was not a shapeless, nameless, super-devil creature like “He who must not be named.” He was a wizard, like Harry and his friends, people who we were able to identify with. And Sirius Black used to be his parent’s friend, his God father. Suddenly, the enemy was so real. Even what was supposed to protect Hogwarts from Sirius, the dementors were very scary. Who would Harry turn to?
2005’s Twilight series was poorly written with a banal story, one dimensional characters and cliches galore, but was the summation of the age of Gossip girl and Harry Potter. It had the required amount of lustful looks and “brushing lips while she ran her fingers in his hair,” along with the darkness of the eternally angst producing dilemma of right and wrong, good and bad.
And in conventional knowledge there is supposed to be a “type” of teenager who reads dark literature. The emo kid with the very long bangs, and pants that seem to be weighed down by the chains tacked onto them has long since become all of us. As darker literature sees the light of best seller lists more frequently these days Ms. Roiphe also mentioned a few upcoming books to watch out for.
1. Wintergirls-Laurie Halse Anderson
2. Thirteen reasons why-Jay Asher
Hey I’ll walk with you to the closest book store if you wait for me while I finish putting on my black eye liner!