Trends in YA Literature

A couple of years ago Steven D. Greydanus wrote an excellent essay A House Divided: Broken Homes, Flying Houses, Divorce, and Death in Family Fantasy Films. I thought that what he had to say was dead on. Some of the movies he discussed were based on children’s books.

During the summer the site Sync offers YA literature in audiobook formats. Each week during this time they usually have a fairly recent YA fiction audiobook and one of more classic literature. What I have noticed of the YA fiction are some similarities to what Mr. Greydanus wrote. In the last couple of years I can’t think of one book I read or listened to in this genre that actually had an intact family. If the children were not orphans than it was usually the case that they only had a mother or rarer only a father.

Such a contrast between classics such as the ones written by Madeleine L’Engle. I had been reading through the Kairos first-generation books and looking at the other YA books I have read in the last couple of years there is quite a contrast. Now many Fantasy novels have had the trope of the orphan who becomes the hero partly out of revenge. Now though it just seems that there must be a broken family regardless of the setting of the novel.

The other thing I have noticed is just how much deception and lying is part of these plots. Children lie and deceive either their one parent, whoever is taking care of them, or some authority figure. There is almost never a lesson learned in this and some resulting character development. The children/young adults “know better” and just have to do this for some apparent good. Moral relativism is the status quo even for the heroic figure. While I enjoyed the Harry Potter novels, the amount of lying that Harry does throughout and with no apparent consequences is an aspect that annoyed me.

Another common thread in many of these YA novels is just how dark they are or how often it involves the death of young adults. The situations contrived call for this to happen and becomes a major part of the plot as for example “The Hunger Games” trilogy. Dystopian futures seem to dominate.

Now I can understand various plot tensions and how conflict is a necessary part of a story. Yet this was done before without a dominance of broken families and gloomy futures. Maybe I am just getting older and instead of saying “Get off my lawn” I am saying “get off my bookshelf.”

While I am unable to eloquently write about these trends I see, I do wonder if others have noticed the same?

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About Jeff Miller

Jeff Miller is a former atheist who after spending forty years in the wilderness finds himself with both astonishment and joy a member of the Catholic Church. A retired Navy Chief who now makes his living as an application developer.


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