I’ve noticed one question popping up more and more frequently during panel and signing Q&A sessions: Are Young Adult books getting darker?
There seems to be a lot of speculation that YA is beginning to trend toward the dark side, and it begs the question, are teens really seeking out darker subject matter? Are authors trying to see how far is too far? And what, exactly, is the draw for these tender young readers on the cusp of adulthood?
With the recent surge in dystopians and paranormals in YA, we’ve seen tributes fight to the death, zombie apocalypses, vampires who will either love you or rip your throat out, an up-rise in serial killers, and plagues that have destroyed nearly the entire world’s population. It’s starting to feel as if we’ve reached a desolate time in young adult literature.
I find this topic endlessly fascinating, the idea that teens have only just discovered these “dark” topics, or that teens of today are reading materials that are much more sinister, somehow, than those of the generations before them. Umm, hold on a moment while I fondly recall curling beneath the covers and reading Stephen King’s SALEM’S LOT at the ripe old age of 14 (and those were definitely not the vampires that sparkled). So forgive me if I scoff at the notion of teens-of-today being more obsessed or fascinated by horror or violence or just plain ole gore than those of yesteryear (and, ehem, I apologize to those of my generation for calling it “yesteryear”). Or that they’ve been somehow corrupted by the books that are flooding the market...books that are indulging this bloodlust.
Honestly, I think what’s really happening here is that publishers are finally realizing that teens have always been reading this stuff. That before we had a substantial Young Adult section in bookstores, as teens we were reading Stephen King or Christopher Pike or Clive Barker...and even, dare I say it, a little Edgar Allen Poe? This fascination isn’t new. Hell, the subject matter isn’t even new. It’s just the realization that teens don’t need to be treated with kid gloves; that they can actually handle it...and that even if it’s not shelved in the YA section, doesn’t mean that teen readers won’t find the material. Honestly, as a parent, I’m much more concerned with what they can find on the internet as opposed to in the pages of a novel.
So what about you, if you’re a teen, what kind books do you like to read? And if you’re not, who (or what) did you curl up with in your yesteryears???