She listens to her 12-year-old son and his friends as they discuss the novels that their teachers have told them to read over the summer. The boys don’t like them. They seem, in fact, to hate them.
The books that her son, Alex, and his friends are compelled to read are highly regarded by teachers and professors of education. Many come decorated with Newbery medals and endorsements by the American Library Association. They are books known in the field of children’s literature as Young Adult (YA) literature. All are highly realistic, written in a confessional tone, usually in the first-person voice of an angry or alienated teenager. The protagonist deals with traumatic experiences: murder, suicide, the death of a parent or friend, incest, sexual abuse, rape, drugs, abortion, kidnapping, abandonment. Friendly or protective adults are virtually nonexistent; the main character’s mother, writes Feinberg, is dead, missing, or nonfunctional. Children in these novels almost never play. Often they feel guilty for whatever catastrophe befalls them. The books are uniformly humorless, earnest, and depressing. Their message, to the extent that they have one: the world is a nasty and brutish place, and you can depend only on yourself.
What is missing from YA books, says Feinberg, is any recognition of the role that imagination and fantasy play in children’s ways of experiencing life. Instead, the books seem dedicated to shocking children, destroying their fantasies, and giving them a mean dose of reality. —Diane Ravitch reviews the book by Barbara Feinberg —Welcome to Lizard Motel: Children, Stories, and the Mystery of Making Things Up [Review] (Education Next)
Found amongst a good collection of links on This Week in Education.