Thursday, April 19, 2012

The dark side of the book shelf

Right now I have a huge group of students- mostly girls- who like to read "dark books". By that I mean, topics that are real, heavy stuff. It can be as fiction or as non but they like to walk on the dark side. I can get the boys to try lots of different things but the girls want the sad and tragic, or what I think of as depressing.

The most popular topics are anything to do with the following: drugs abuse, rape, domestic/physical/ sexual abuse, alcohol abuse, teen violence (school shootings, etc), self harm or self mutilation, tragic relationships, suicide, and gangs. It's really rough.

I understand this, to a certain degree. This population of students at my school come from straight from the pages of books like these. It's not a joke. But it's so serious and heavy and depressing and sad. I know they want to read what the relate to, but... wow. I don't expect these kids to want to read all rainbows and sunshine and Christian fiction and happiness, but all this hard hitting reality stuff seems like too much. On the flip side, I want kids to read and if this is what they read, then so be it.

It's a real struggle for me as I don't read stuff like this- usually. One of those topics might be peripheral to a novel I take up, but usually not the main thrust. And I sure can't read that sort of stuff in large quantities. Does anyone have any suggestions? i ask my students what they like to read and I search the net, Goodreads, and library magazines as well as publisher magazines. I find lots of the same titles repeated. I need some new stuff.

I do have quite a good collection going of the dark and miserable (i swear it's what I call the genre, in my head, not to the kids). I have all the books by Ellen Hopkins. I have Go Ask Alice and Jay's Journal. I have the Bluford High Series. I have all of Laurie Halse Anderson novels. I have Smashed, Trigger, Cut, Prey, A Million Little Pieces, We all Fall Down, Tweak, Glimpse, Blackout Girl, and 13 Reasons Why. I have Boost, Hate List and all the books by Allison Van Diepen, as well as those by Simone Elkeles. Any other suggestions of stuff in this genre/ category would be helpful.

I don't know. It's just so sad...There's so much good stuff out there for teens. There's a lot of wonderful 'adult books recommended for teen readers' too like Defending Jacob, The Night Circus, Water for Elephants, The Help, anything by John Grisham (who actually writes a series for young adults!), some of Stephen King's stuff, Lev Grossman's Magician series, most of Jodi Picoult's stuff... I could go on and on about adult books for teens. There's also good stuff for YA written for Young Adults. Okay, there's a lot of garbage but there's good stuff. I think anything by Neil Shusterman is awesome, for example. Harry Potter. Of course Twilight (okay kids like it...). The Bone books by Jeff Smith, Veronica Roth's stuff, John Green write stuff for kids as well as Cassendra Clare, Kelley Armstrong, Lurlene McDaniel, Caroline B. Cooney, Michael Scott, Beth Goobie, Alyson Noel, Sarah Dessen, Meg Cabot, Melissa de la Cruz, and Scott Westerfeld (and many more, but this was just off the top of my head!). Jennifer Weiner even has a teen book coming out this summer.

But right now, for my students, the darker and the more depressing, the better they seem to like it. Recommendations anyone?



sam said...

Hey there stranger,

Maybe they read that stuff because the people in those books have it far worse than themselves so it make them feel good about themselves.


booknut said...

A Child Called It and the rest of the books in that series would fall under that category and are actually very good books (even if they are depressing). They are by Dave Pelzer.