"To find beauty in ugliness is the province of the poet."–Thomas Hardy.

Meghan Cox Gurdon argues in the WSJ that modern fiction for teenagers is too dark. The argument runs that the consistently grim, even morbid, subjects in the genre have a harmful effect on their readers. Authors in that genre are, of course, upset by this article.

One thing that is strange about the WSJ article is that it interviews parents, writers, editors and booksellers, yet does not seem to interview any fiction-reading teenagers, whose opinions would seem to be highly relevant.

I’ve never liked the concept of deliberately writing a “fiction for teenagers” genre anyway. It seems to me people ought to try to write something good and not worry about who likes it. There’s too much of a “what shall we tell them to think?” vibe from the genre itself and articles like that above, in my opinion.

For what it’s worth, when I was a teenager, I don’t remember reading all that much teenage fiction, and what I did read wasn’t very good. I do remember I read a bunch of Thomas Hardy‘s novels. These had the advantages of being (a) recognized as great literature, (b) much better written than most modern stuff, whether for teenagers or anyone else, and (c) every bit as dark and depressing as the modern stuff. (For those of you unfamiliar with Hardy, his books are perhaps best described by this line from his own The Mayor of Casterbridge: “Happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain.”)

1 Comment

  1. Literature has always been about the dark side. Without conflict there is no story. Parents always want there to be a moral to the story and that's what the kids hate.

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