Ian Grey wrote a terrific piece about what he calls “a strain of teen fiction that goes further and darker, to greater illuminating effect, to produce what I’ll call ‘dark young adult fiction': DYA for short.” Among others, he looks at Robert Cormier’s Tenderness, Francesca Lia Block’s The Hanged Man, M.T. Anderson’s Feed, Blake Nelson’s Paranoid Park, my own Blue Mirror, examining the darkness of the kids’ lives in these stories, the paucity of their options, the bravery and desperation of their decisions large and small. It’s a great walk into the shadows, and it makes me want to run out and get all the books he explores that I haven’t already read.
I wonder, sometimes, if there’s a reluctance – on the part of teachers, media specialists, publishers, writers – in offering a book with a darker worldview, as if this might indicate to a teen reader that yes, kiddo, you’re right: there is No Hope. Myself, I always like to hear the bad news first, so I can better see where the light lies. And I think there’s a real relief in seeing others coping with fears or demons that, while maybe not exactly like ours, are close enough to show a family resemblance. Even when the outcome on the page is bleak, our own, in real life, need not be, and a reader might even be strengthened by seeing the darkness up close. At my own lowest moments, the one thing I do not want is someone telling me that Everything is Going to Be OK. What I need is someone to say, “You’re not alone.”
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