Why Young Adult Books are so Addictive: Then and Now
By Christine Bailey
If you haven’t read J.D Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, you’re missing out. Arguably the first young adult novel, Catcher sets the stage for other teen protagonists dealing with the adolescent angst we’ve come to love in today’s novels. Or maybe the first YA novel was Maureen Daly’s Seventeenth Summer. Either way, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by taking a trip back in time—with either book. You might even realize, like I did, that these teen worlds are not so different from ours today. Okay, so they didn’t have cell phones and social media back then, but they did have love and heartbreak.
I recently had the chance to sit down with a few teens and discuss this book with them. Here’s a comment from Lauren about the protagonist Holden Caulfield as an outsider: “Holden, though likeable, isn’t always tolerated well by the people in his life such as his roommates and the kids at school. Along with his occasionally annoying personality, Holden is set apart because he doesn’t put forth effort in school. He has attended and flunked out of multiple schools, and he spends most of his time talking about how phony everyone is. Why does Holden act like this? Why not study hard and prepare for the future? He fears the future. He fears growing up. He remembers childhood and the innocence that came with it, unwilling to accept change and move forward with his life.”
Relevant? Relatable? Absolutely! So while Catcher was published in 1951, the themes throughout the novel still speak to audiences today. Plus, it has a great plot, suspense, and a main character you’ll be pulling for until the very last page—much like the good YA books we’re reading today. If you get the chance, read it and compare it to a more recent YA book—let us know what you think. What’s stayed the same? What’s changed? Thanks for stopping by!
Christine H. Bailey teaches creative writing and written composition at a private university in west Tennessee. Before teaching English, Christine worked as a journalist, a marketing/public relations writer, and a freelance editor. She’s written two book for Vinspire Publishing (Girl in the Middle and Waking Under Water). To learn more about the author and her work, visit her website at www.cibailey.com.
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