Is there really a “manhood deficit” in today’s YA literature?
Given my focus on boys’ reading I couldn’t pass by “YA Fiction and the End of Boys” by Sarah Meslein in the Los Angeles Review of Books. It’s a hot hot hot! topic that won’t go away anytime soon.
She suggests that there’s a “manhood deficit” (my phrase, not hers) in YA literature that abandons teen boys to an identity crisis that didn’t exist for the young males of nineteenth-century literature. Back then they had a strong sense of what it meant to become a man.
She’s right-on about teen boys’ confusion over adulthood. But I don’t think the issue is gender-specific, somehow leaving boys more confused about manhood than girls are about womanhood. I see it more as an ongoing generation gap that teens have been inheriting since the late 1960’s. And it plugs into a theme I’ve noticed in YA literature – when it comes to identity, it’s simply a terrible time to be a teen.
Adults – the supposed role models – have nurtured a world of unrest and insecurity for the last two generations, all the while chanting the deceptively self-serving slogan, “For the children.” Think maybe there’s a reason today’s teens aren’t striving to identify with adult roles?
There is definitely an adulthood gap showing up in today’s booming YA literature category. Teens are by nature at least a little rebellious – or completely rebellious in certain ways – needing to separate their identities from adults in order to explore who they are and who they are becoming. That’s one part of the issue – it’s an overall teen endeavor, one of the many luxuries of our modern times.
But it seems there are many societal issues, too, pushing teens farther away from adult roles and identities, causing an overall “adulthood aversion.” In a time when gender is more equally valued than any other we know of, teens need look no further than their 200 cable TV channels to see how equally idiotic adults can be.
If there’s any pop-culture evidence outside of YA literature for strong examples of “manhood” and “womanhood” I’d like to see it – and I think teens would too. They’ve been missing far too long.
How could such a vision of one’s future NOT show up in YA literature?
Now, here’s the cheese on this Brain Burger.
3 other reasons teens aren’t exited about their upcoming roles as adults:
- Divided government makes it impossible to legislate fun.
- Tension caused by constant state of war causes Irritable Bowel Disorder, destroys claim, “I’ll never be like my parents.”
- Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry!
Chris Everheart is author of the thriller
Read my new author interview at Chompasaurus!
- Spread the Conspiracy: Read (chriseverheart.com)
- Mis-misspent Youth (chriseverheart.com)
- I read “young adult” literature and so should you (uiw.uloop.com)
- Just Two Weeks Until “YA: What’s Next?” in NYC, November 28 (publishingperspectives.com)