Girls Gone Dark: Teen books go bleak. Should we worry?
Let’s face it, PopWatchers. Though we might spend our days laughing about last night’s I’m a Celebrity… or dreaming about the possibility of a Saved By the Bell reunion, we can’t ignore the fact that we live in pretty dark times. That might be the reason why so many of our budding young adults are shirking light-hearted teen books for reads like the anorexia-centric Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, or the death-centric If I Stay, by Gayle Forman.
The death and destruction-focused book genre has become huge for teen girls, with books like Stay and Wintergirls lining the bookshelves where Sweet Valley High-esque books once reigned supreme (read Katie Roiphe’s fascinating Wall Street Journal article for more detail on this phenomenon). But it’s interesting how much a difference a few years could make when it comes to our younsters’ sensabilities. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that I was a teen myself, and I can tell you that most people my age deliberately avoided all depressing literature in the late 1990s (though it should be said that the quality of these contemporary books far surpass the I’m 16 and Dying genre from my youth). Instead, we buried our noses in Louis Sachar books, or in tales from the Goosebumps and aforementioned pink-plated Sweet Valley High series.
Seeing this change in teen interests leads parents to question just one thing: Could this newer, darker literature be harmful for teens? Roiphe says no, since most of the books end on an uplifting note that seems to indicate that good times are around the corner. And I have to agree. What’s the danger of literature that allows our youngsters to confront the problems facing them and realize that they’re not facing them alone? And teens can tolerate only so much mindless dribble—I dumped most of my brainless, Clueless-type reads in favor of classic literature by the time I hit 16. It’s nice to see that there’s now a non-Judy Blume genre for girls that helps them cope with angst.
PopWatchers, do you think the genre is dangerous or beneficial for teens? Are you fans of these books? And what did you read as a teen?