Edgy YA: Going Too Far?

August 14, 2009 at 11:56 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments

The thread on Absolute Write about too much YA being edgy has got me thinking. Have we reached a point where YA has become too edgy? Have some books crossed the boundaries? Do we now have too much “dark” YA literature on our hands? Just take a quick peek at some recent YA books and bestsellers, and the common themes are:

• Death/Suicide (Thirteen Reasons Why, If I Stay, Before I Die)

• Bulimia/Anorexia (Wintergirls)

• Imprisonment (The Boy Who Dared, Airman)

• Violence/Revenge (Living Dead Girl, Looks)

• Sex (there are too many!)

There was a time when the YA bookshelf only had novels about that hot football captain that you regularly dreamed about (don’t deny it), your annoying parents that didn’t understand you, and that all-important makeover. Those were key elements to a YA novel… so what changed?

Why are teenagers all of a sudden picking up such edgy books? Simple: they are not doing it all of a sudden. People are forgetting that edgy YA has been around for a very long time, since 1967 with S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders and beyond. The only thing that has changed is us. Yes, that includes you. The author of The Chocolate Factory, Robert Cormier, explains that “there are more books that deal with tough subjects, more honesty and more willingness to face reality. I also think books reflect the times we live in.”

It’s true. We are currently living with a terrible economy, a swine flu pandemic, and I still don’t have an outfit to next week’s party (okay, maybe I need to sort out my priorities). These books look at the issues and sometimes reflect the harsh realities of life. This may come to shock to parents, mainly mine, but we teens can handle it!

We are living in dark times, and therefore maybe leaning towards darker books. We are able to relate and share our grief with the characters. Things may be looking pretty bad, but I think these riveting books are able to give us an escape. The situations in edgy YA force us to think and question ideas we wouldn’t have come across with otherwise. You are able to go on this dark journey with the MC and explore themes that would probably give my grandmother a heart attack.

Edgy YA has been here for a long time, and I am happy to say that it is going to stay for a long time (or hopefully until we twifties can get all our edgy YA books published).

~Amna AKA GeekPride



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  1. i do agree with this comment.i think edgy books help me understand how other young adults behave and react to different situtaions.it gives me a better understanding in the way other young adults live.

    great blog :D

  2. I think you have a point about YA always having an edge. I think sometimes we gloss over those parts in our memory. The Grimm’s Fairy Tales were all rather, well, grim. The Wizard of Oz books weren’t exactly rainbows and puppies, either. It might be that we’re just noticing it all more and more nowadays.

  3. Lol. I actually do love most of those books you mentioned.

  4. Awesome articles! I don’t think we’d really understand adulthood if those YA novels didn’t have a bit of edginess tbh.

    • I don’t know if the edge is necessary for the understanding of adulthood (I’m sure somewhere there is a well-functioning adult who doesn’t know much about anorexia, except maybe that it exists), but I think that as people get older they have a deeper appreciation for and understanding of the darker aspects in life, therefore the books they read are able to include those topics without them being out of place.

  5. Edgy YA totally deserves its place. Proving that is as simple as looking at the lives of teens today. Bubblegum YA has a worthy purpose – entertainment. But I think edgy YA is where it’s at, because (when done right) it speaks truly, no BS included, to the teen experience.

  6. Edgy YA is real whereas Bubblegum YA, a little bit more on the fun unrealistic side.

  7. Personally I love edgy YA. There is just something about those raw, realistic and sometimes horrific situations. The books are gripping and They are the ones I read cover to cover!

  8. Not to mention that sometimes you have to see darkness before you can appreciate the light. *shamelessly plagiarizes Madeleine L’Engle’s quote*

    • Hehe, Nice quote ;)

  9. yeah, if authors want to write about teens and their lives, then they gotta write about plausible stuff. Not lie about what would really happen in a situation that teens would be stuck in, they got to write about what would probably happen. No matter how graphic or whatever, the book is about teens and we’re gonna do some pretty crazy stuff, so tell what would actually happen like that.

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