Adolescents are known for following fads in fashion. Buying clothes which they wouldn’t dare be seen in the next year. Only, I’m seeing styles that keep coming back. The tendency towards fads has moved on into the world of books. We finished a phase in which the major character in a YA book was overwhelmingly more likely to fall in love with someone not quite human than another person. What changed between the novels was the quality of that difference. One was a vampire, the next a werewolf, and another a space alien. How about a romance with the zombie; isn’t that original? On the surface yes, but it is largely the same plot.
When dystopian YA books came into vogue, the majority described a future society in which being educated in the art of physical fighting led to the best career. Details were different, but the premises were similar, and it the end the corrupt government fell.
As a teenager there was a novella that was passed around between my friends to read and reread until the paperback became tattered and dog-eared. Recently I learned it was not a real work of YA fiction, not according to modern genre section rules. The major characters were not adolescents who solved their own problems. They were adults who didn’t even manage to do that.
During a lesson on how to compose a blurb for a book, my junior high favorite resurfaced. I noted that the blurb had been rewritten to appeal to a modern audience. It mentioned that Charlie was part of an experiment, and he had discovered something was going wrong another subject of this experiment. It said nothing about the fact his name, Charlie Gordon, was synonymous was pulling a stupid stunt. Nor, that he is an adult who starts out and ends up with the mental capacity of a kindergartner. And it did not mention that the other subject of this experiment was a lowly mouse.
Instead it stuck strictly to the sci-fi aspects of this lovely piece of fiction. Everyone thought it was a wonderful blurb, because Flowers for Algernon is a wonderful book. However, will all those teenagers who are expecting to read about an adolescent who is forced into an experiment by a corrupt government that he eventually overcomes be disappointed? I sincerely hope not.