Sunday, 7 April 2013
Sunday April 7, 2013 Youth Without Youth
With the emergence of popular titles such as the “Twilight saga” and “the Hunger Games” series, the young adult audience is an ever growing demographic for writers to address. What is it about this genre that teenagers find so enjoyable?
In my opinion, it is the dilemma that the young hero in the novel faces and their struggle to overcome the odds. The idea of a young person taking on adult responsibilities is what makes this type of literature endlessly appealing. In many classic young adult novels, the hero is pitted against a harsh reality that the young character must come to terms with while discovering something about themselves.
Facing challenging situations that allows the character to develop helps the reader to connect and sympathize with their struggle. Harper Lee’s beloved To Kill a Mockingbird does such thing. Told from the point of view of Scout Finch, daughter of attorney Atticus, she acts as the reader’s witness to racism and prejudice in the American Deep South. With uncanny intelligence, Scout helps save an innocent man from a bad reputation, while suffering her loss of innocence. With the universal theme of acceptance of one’s neighbour, Scout’s actions represent tolerance amid a society govern by the hatred of adults.
In a radically different notion, the anti-hero Duddy Kravitz in The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, despite the circumstances remains emotionally stunted through his journey from adolescence to adulthood. Through his intention of acquiring land and pleasing his family, Kravitz manipulates others all in the name of success. While most readers will be put of by these efforts, it is his struggle to become the person he wants to be that the reader identifies with.
Much like Kravitz, the reader’s initial impression of Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye may be a negative one based on his pompous, spoiled behaviour. But as the reader takes the journey from his dorm in Pennsylvania to the streets of New York, we realize that his over the top bravado masks an inner turmoil. Struggling with his identity and overall place in the world, the emotional crisis he faces is one many young adults can relate to and will find his journey to be a familiar one.
Similarly, The Perks of Being a Wallflower examines one teen’s struggle over fitting in amongst his high school peers. Having been compared to a modern day Catcher in the Rye, this epistolary novel centers on introverted Charlie as he recounts his junior year in high school. As the young Charlie explores the excitement and sometime danger of being a teen, the novel celebrates our differences and encourages the audience to embrace their true selves.
In the sense of being true to oneself, Pi Patel, the hero in Life of Pi learns to accept his spiritual and emotional identity, but it takes the physicality and brutality of his Pacific ocean journey for Pi to realize his full capacity. His journey allows him to explore the meaning of faith and acts as a test of strength and weakness amid Pi’s lingering doubt. By the end of his eventful journey across the ocean, Pi’s characterization matures from that of a young, vulnerable boy to a confident and wise adult.
Such formidable novels with complex characters are what attract the young reader to these stories. Reading about young people’s struggle and perseverance enlightens us as we reflect on our own comings of age. So come and visit your neighbourhood Thunder Bay Public Library branch and check out one of these timeless teen classics.