Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Young Adult Novel: Sweet or Dark?

Here's a quick question for those who read (and write) "YA" novels -- that is, novels intended for adolescents. As I mull over the teens on my holiday list, I see that the ones who've reached driving age are ready for just plain good writing, never mind the YA qualifier. But for the ones between 10 and 15 years, the magic of YA fiction makes the list. And the question is:

Is YA fiction better when it's sweet (that is, has a good ending that the protagonist works hard to achieve), or dark (that is, carries the harsh tang of unpredictable disaster)?

My favorites for this year's "satisfying ending" category include Katherine Paterson's BREAD AND ROSES, TOO and the paperback edition of Natalie Kinsey-Warnock's AS LONG AS THERE ARE MOUNTAINS. David Stahler, another Vermont author, brings out volume 2 of The Truesight Trilogy next spring and I just devoured an advance copy (THE SEER), so if you haven't started these, now's a good time to pick up the first one (happily now in softcover), TRUESIGHT.

But Stahler always has a frisson of horror, something that the warm friends in his work help the protagonist to bear and supercede. In his 2006 stand-alone, DOPPELGANGER, Stahler went all the way to the dark side, much as DRACULA and even THE WIZARD OF OZ did (and Barry Moser's illustrated editions bring out the shadows brilliantly). And knowing some downright ghoulish 12-year-olds, I'm wondering -- will they prefer the scarier stuff?

Discussion invited. And if you're under 16, your opinion matters even more.

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