This week’s blog post deals with what I know about young adult literature, and what I have gathered to this point. It’s been quite some time since I have read and reflected on themes I have encountered thus far. My fulfillment has exceeded the expectations I had coming in to the course. It’s no wonder we are in a golden age of young adult literature, truly. The variety of authors and settings have inspired me to place a heavy amount of young adult literature in my classroom someday. That being said, what do I know about young adult literature?
I know the themes in young adult literature are strategically placed for the age bracket the genre is trying to reach. Those base human feelings we encounter such as grief, love, happiness, loss, bewilderment, and angst are a major part of young adult lit. For some teen readers they are encountering these types of emotions for the first time. Books are a helping hand to guide these readers through their troubles. Young adult literature lets readers know what the world is made of, what they have to look forward to, and shines light on the certain questions of life (some may never be answered, the books do a good job of addressing this). Whether young readers need their questions answered immediately, or down the road, young adult books are a great guiding light. I’ve learned that young adult lit is a great resource for adults, too. They are a silent, symbolic reminder to approach the world with an enlightened spirit; a memo addressing the child’s spirit we all carry within us. It’s not elementary or simple, its useful. In short, I’m aware that young adult lit helps people of all ages recognize the chess, or checkers, game taking place around them, and how to grab the meaning of life, even through pain.
I’ve always loved this speech on the meaning of life through books from William Faulkner. Yes, it applies to young adult lit, too. Notice the phrases “to be afraid” and “conflict of the human heart,” then tell me whether that applies to young adult lit. I, unequivocally, think that it does.
Notice too, that Faulkner makes mention of “pity” and “compassion,” two skills that any teacher wants their students to develop.
My breadth in the subject of young adult literature is weak; furthermore, it has been awhile since I’ve read the titles that I used to feel comfortable with. In order to get what I want out of this course, I must read, and focus on diverse works. I’m off to a good start in this category. I need to know the direction young adult lit is heading in order to relay advice and recommendations to my students. More importantly, I need to be able to step into the mind of a young reader in order to reveal the troubles of the age group. It is easy to forget (and want to forget) the complicated mind of a teenager. So far, the books have brought me back in touch with the troubles and travails that had passed on. It’s been a good reminder.
Now, I’d like to elaborate on my strengths in the genre of young adult literature. I’m not beefed up anywhere, but I feel I’m stronger in the sub-genre of solitary survival. To be specific, the works of Gary Paulsen, Wilson Rawls, Scott O’Dell, and Jean George. Now I’m not well versed in any of these authors excepts Paulsen, but I do understand the themes they all present. The theme of self-reliance is my strength. I’m not saying self-reliance only in the sense of boy scout guile, but also as an allegory for relying on your given intuition to survive as a person, and as a species. These authors all present characters that have to grow up quick, due to isolation. They also present characters that are part of a “counter-culture.” To be more specific, the characters don’t necessarily hate the world they were given, they just feel they are more wholesome when separated from it. Sometimes the separation is voluntary, and sometimes it is forced. Either way the characters learn life skills from the separation. These skills are of the practical and spiritual sort. The settings in these books are very beautiful, and the authors are all brilliant in natural world, imaginative diction. My favorite books usually always incorporate a heavy dose of the natural world (but not always).
This is a list of books that I would recommend in the category I just wrote about. Most of them are classic young adult books (simply because I haven’t read contemporary young adult works). If you’ve read them, cool, if not, then maybe you could check one of them out, see what you think. (I would highly recommend Island of the Blue Dolphins)
Author: Gary Paulsen
- Harris and Me
Author: Jean George
- My Side of the Mountain Series
- Julie of the Wolves
Author: Scott O’Dell
- Island of the Blue Dolphins
Author: Wilson Rawls
- Where the Red Fern Grows
Interview of Jean Craighead George. She talks about books being able to create conservationists and environmentalists.