Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Reviewing Trends (or Coping with Mental Problems)

Tip of the Day, Librarian Edition: Please silence your cell phone and remain disconnected from it when inside the library. Nobody wants to hear what you're planning for dinner, what time your son needs to get picked up from hockey practice, or how much you hate your ex.

While reading the February 2012 VOYA, I noticed something in the reviews of realistic fiction: Five of them featured teens in mental hospitals.

I read one prior to seeing this month's VOYA:
TRY NOT TO BREATHE is a lovely YA of friends, family, health, truth, and healing. The main character is already released from the mental hospital when the novel begins, but he has a connection to two friends he made there and flashbacks to his institutionalization.

The other four VOYA reviewed novels contain characters visiting their friends in mental hospitals, girls recovering from OCD, etc. Different approaches with a similar theme.

As a teen, I loved GO ASK ALICE and other books that explored mental health issues, especially since I liked to diagnose myself with hypochondria, OCD, and whatever else was in the news. I'm sure teens today think about the same things.
But do we need five new titles with this theme? Maybe we do. Or is the mental hospital setting just another avenue for the dark, realistic contemporary YA novel that sells today? Is it a "trend," or is the market just ready for these novels to simultaneously hit the shelves? Is this simply the progression from all of the books with MCs seeing shrinks a couple years ago?

Some other patterns I noticed in VOYA were:
--teens getting ready to graduate from HS who have plans for their studies/futures (often involving the arts), but a death/break-up/parental decision throws them off course and they don't know what to do with their lives.
--not much realistic historical fiction at all (there is more in the fantasy/sci-fi/horror section)

What patterns are you noticing on the shelves? And do you find the themes "worthy?"

Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing

1 comment:

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

I think it's just an example of the synchronicity that happens all the time among writers. In my case, Try Not to Breathe is one version of a story I've had in my head for years and years, but it was only recently that I found the right way to tell it.

Writers don't talk much with one another about the nitty-gritty of the content of their works in progress. But all of a sudden a bunch of us start writing about mermaids, or werewolves, or eating disorders, or deadly storms, or terminal illness, or circuses, or ballet--without any prior consultation!

I think it can be good to have several different stories and perspectives about a given experience, because there's never just one definitive story about an experience.