On their pastel covers, modestly sweatshirted girls with big hair and worried expressions gazed into the distance. Between the covers, sweet-tempered heroines and their friends asked Jesus to help them deal with Issues the Youth are Facing Today: drinking, drugs, teen pregnancy, car wrecks, divorce, cancer. As I recall, the series author had thoughtfully selected one issue per book, so that in each volume, something awful was guaranteed to happen. The series exemplified two of the pitfalls of YA fiction: a formulaic approach to the novel series and a heavy-handed focus on issues instead of characters and plot—the things that make fiction enjoyable to read. These pitfalls were by no means limited to writers of inspirational Christian fiction; in one popular series by Lurlene McDaniel, teenagers died, one after another, of cancer, maudlin tales my friends and I snapped up.
This article is edited from a story shared exclusively with members of The Masthead , the membership program from The Atlantic find out more. In part one, we explore why adults gravitate towards books written for children and teenagers. In part two, we hear from best-selling YA author John Green about his latest protagonist and the stigma surrounding mental illness. Young-adult literature typically centers on teenagers. To find out why, I consulted the president of a young-adult publishing imprint, a professor of young-adult literature, a few Masthead members who love YA, and Green himself. The bildungsroman—the original term for a coming-of-age story—dates back to 17th century Germany, when Johann Wolfgang Goethe and his contemporaries began writing stories about young protagonists, progressing on a journey toward maturity. It suggests some sort of stable existence.
Authors and educators gather at UNLV to discuss the future of books for children and teens. Books save lives — just ask any librarian, teacher, author, or college professor who works with young people. It brought new books, new techniques, and new resources to those who want to profoundly engage with teens through books that relate deeply to issues in their lives — from racial inequity and school shootings, sexual assault to substance addiction, and gender discrimination to neglect. The four-day summit featured more than 40 presentations and keynotes speeches from educators and authors across the nation. The conference recognized that helping teenagers grapple with serious issues can be complicated and politically risky.
Targeted at readers 12 to 18 years old, it sprang into being near the end of the turbulent decade of the s—in , to be specific, a year that saw the publication of two seminal novels for young readers: S. Hinton and Lipsyte clearly were writing a new kind of novel for young adults—one of unsparing contemporary realism that met a need articulated by Hinton herself in a passionate article in The New York Times Book Review published on August 27, Teenagers today want to read about teenagers today. The world is changing, yet the authors of books for teen-agers are still 15 years behind the times. In the fiction they write, romance is still the most popular theme with a horse and the girl who loved it coming in a close second.