The Wall Street Journal recently published an article about YA fiction with the headline It was, like, all dark and stormy.
Just quietly, I’m rapt that a media outlet as big-time as the WSJ is covering YA fiction. I’m not sure I agree with the thrust of the article but its publication possibly suggests that YA won’t continue to be hidden at the back of bookstores like some adult no-go zone.
If you’re tempted to read the article, and it’s certainly worth a squiz, be warned it contains spoilers on the plots of several books. All the titles discussed have been released in the US for a while now, which is probably why the writer had no qualms about divulging story outcomes. Nonetheless, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Spoilers suck.
That caveat aside, the thesis of the article is basically that YA readers are turning to the dark side of life, voraciously consuming stories about topics such as suicide, mental illness, death, eating disorders and disaster.
My thoughts are that:
1. I don’t think this is a new trend. There are plenty of decades-old dark novels that would be retrospectively classified as YA fiction; and
2. The teen years can be dark anyway – a time of loneliness, change and altered awareness of the world.
I’ve posted previously on this latter point, informed by workshops I do with students and a secondary school short story competition I have judged for several years. As an author of YA fiction containing dark matter, I’d argue that young adults are watching and sharing the same world as the rest of us. Hopefully reading stories can help them comprehend and come to terms with a universe that no longer seems as shiny as it did during their early childhoods.