YA Wednesday: WACs, Trauma Porns, and Blue Hair
It's about two teen girls who find out--while they're all on a cross-country road trip together--that their "weird" grandma was actually a World War II WAC. If you're a sucker for historical fiction, tough female characters, and grandmas, this one's for you.
"The road of YA lit is littered with car crashes"
The big buzz in YA-dom this week is this Wall Street Journal article defending the recent spate of YA bestsellers about suicide, anorexia, disfiguring car crashes--you know, the stormy side of YA:
Until recently, the young-adult fiction section at your local bookstore was a sea of nubile midriffs set against pink and turquoise backgrounds. Today’s landscape features haunted girls staring out from dark or washed-out covers. ...Somewhere along the line our teenagers have become connoisseurs of disaster.
EW's PopWatch agrees:
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.Then Meg Cabot reminds us that this trend is nothing new:
There’s even a name for this kind of fiction in the “industry”--it’s called “trauma porn.”And The Horn Book's Roger Sutton takes this reminder a bit further:
Hey, don’t blame me! I didn’t make up the name. I agree, the name “trauma porn” is a bit rude.
But so is the name “chick lit,” the genre in which I write (and “dick lit,” in which Nick Hornby et al write…although I understand that’s been changed to “lad lit” because “dick lit” is way too rude).
(FYI, the queen of trauma porn is Lurlene McDaniel. Love her.)
But guess what? Trauma porn isn’t new. Certain teenagers have always been drawn to books about kids who have bigger problems than they do.
I didn’t want to read trauma porn when I was a teen, but in my hometown library, that’s all they had in the YA section (or at least, if they had anything else, it was always checked out).
It seems that Roiphe has missed the fairly essential point that YA was at first defined by its darkness; without any apparent irony she writes that "it may be no coincidence that the dominant ambiance of young-adult literature should be that of the car crash about to happen." The road of YA lit is littered with car crashes, a signal event of just about every problem novel published in the 1970s.
YA Wednesday will return on June 24 (taking a short break). In the meantime, let me know your favorite summer reads so far. Happy reading.--Heidi