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Teen Talk

May 17, 2014

On the Go: Teens' reading choices reflect on concerns of today, future

There is an intense desire for post-apocalyptic teen and young adult books. 

Many people are pleased to see that current teen tastes have moved beyond sparkly, chauvinistic boyfriends. But they seem to have moved toward slaying peers and creating chaos. These books usually mention the post-traumatic stress disorder the characters experience. More and more, though, people are questioning the effect these books are having on their readers and why teens are seeking out stories of this nature to begin with.

There seem to be two going theories. On one hand, teens are using the future as a hyperbolic metaphor for high school. Reaping Day is like graduation, and factions are like cliques. On the other hand, the future teens face is full of many imminent threats. In the age of instant communication, teens and young adults don’t have the luxury of denial. The world is not immune to the inevitable consequences of our choices. Stories are made to be tragic so teens can take comfort in the fact that our reality isn’t that screwed up … yet.

I think the second explanation is closer to the truth. Ever since the atomic bomb was deployed in World War II, humanity has feared our own progress, though we maintained a certain level of optimism and certainty. 

That bubble has popped. 

Suddenly we are experiencing noticeable climate change. Money is running out. Marriages are crumbling. Life is changing at an alarming rate. Our government is a sprawling bureaucracy. My generation is the first one we’ve documented with a life expectancy lower that our parents’. We’ll probably all die young, poor and alone with no effective government to support us as we wilt.

Or, maybe, we’ll have no government left at all. Most of the stories teens are reading about the future involve the crumbling of the United States. It’s become almost an expectation among youth that we’ll fall. 

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