I’ve been doing a lot of YA reading in anticipation of an upcoming class, and one thing I’ve been struck by is how depressing it all is. Death, depression, drugs, suicide, pregnancy — these kids have truly horrible lives.
In general I have no problem with this, but what seems odd to me is that I don’t really remember my reading being this dark at that age. Or perhaps more accurately – I may have read those dark depressing books, but they didn’t stick with me. When I think back to what I read as a child and as a teen the books that I remember well are not those awful, gut-wrenching or terrifying novels. One or two, obviously – I can still recall intentionally re-reading Johnny’s death scene from The Outsiders so I would cry – but really, the books I look back fondly on were a very different nature. The big problems were “I like a boy and he doesn’t like me” or “what do I wear?” I infinitely preferred humor and jokes to blood and death.
Some of this is just personal preference, to be sure – I don’t enjoy dark or scary novels as a grownup either (my love of mysteries does not include the serial killer and bloody thriller genre so popular now, sorry Steig Larsson). But I wonder – are kids books now just darker? Or is it just that the “difficult” ones win all the awards?