Thursday, June 23, 2011

Let There Be Light...In Teen Literature

I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal discussing young adult literature “so dark that kidnapping and pederasty and incest and brutal beatings are now just part of the run of things in novels directed, broadly speaking, at children from the ages of 12 to 18.” The article begins with a parent expressing her concern about the topics common in teen novels.  
  I understand the argument that illuminating real problems helps kids to realize they are not the only ones suffering the same misery. I did, in fact, write my own novel for that very reason. Kids today are, of course, more aware of crime and corruption. Movies, television shows, video games, even news articles deal much more openly with disgraced politicians, immoral religious leaders, and dishonest public servants. If there is no sensational wantonness in our own community, local news reports horrors in other parts of the country. Because of this increased exposure, conscientious parents use these situations to discuss them and put society’s abuses into perspective for their kids. What about the teens whose parents don’t take the time and trouble to educate their children? I don’t think anyone can deny many, many teenagers have little or no guidance.

Even more, though, than the general knowledge of the world’s dark side, I find the description of the detail, or “how-to,” of self-mutilation or other destructive behavior completely unnecessary. As an adult, I find such graphic depictions depressing and distasteful. Does anyone really need a step-by-step plan for rape or suicide?

So by now some of you are thinking “preach on, Sister,” and that’s all right with me. I’m way too passionate about this subject to worry about that. I also realize teen readers of this blog will likely think me hopelessly old fashioned. Oh well, it won’t be the first time, so I’ll finish the sermon with a preachy, out-of-style thought. Adults have some responsibility in how they present illegal or cruel activities to kids who are still figuring out who they are. Uncovering corruption and sleaze is all well and good, but maybe we’ve taken it a little too far. If we want young adults to have values, empathy and ideals, we will have to show them people who still possess them. Kids still need to see some good in people, even if they know to be careful of the bad. Although the young should be aware there are villains in the world, they should also recognize heroes still exist.

And besides, I still need those things myself.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Likin’ the Lycans - A Review: Werewoof

Norm Cowie’s recently released novel is called Werewoof, which tells you a lot about the book right off the bats (pun and “s” intended). When teenaged Erin is twice bitten by a vampire, she and her family plot to rid the town of the blood-sucking evildoers before their daughter is given the third and irreversible bite that will complete her transition to undead.
Assisted by three good friends, Erin and her sister Alex soon run afoul of the wrestling team turned werewolves and a group of teenaged vampires on the prowl. The five friends find themselves in the middle of a clash between factions of not-too-bright night creatures. To this add the local triathalon team pedaling way into the middle of the battle, Erin’s bat providing vampire wisdom, and the girls’ parents running around with garlic and gardening stakes, and you find yourself leaning back in your chair and settling in for the fun.

Cowie makes you chuckle and groan as you make your way through the doggy jokes and clever one-liners, all the while keeping you invested in the fast-paced story line. In the end, the tale is more than a collection of witty turns of phrase. In fact, the story portrays a classical message of the importance of friends and family sticking together to deal with the danger beyond their threshold.   

Think “Twilight” meets “Saved by the Bell.” This one is fun for all ages.