Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Depression fiction

Books for older children and young teens are just a minefield, aren't they? There's a stretch there when every book seems to just be about misery and despair. It's the kind of thing that gets satirized in the "Series of Unfortunate Events" books, and debated when the misery and despair are because of social issues that some parents don't want their kids reading about, but even in the little innocent paperbacks about run-of-the-mill school problems, the unhappiness runs so darn deep it's hard for me to read them. I remember reading some Marvin Redpost books with my daughter a few years ago and finding them semi-sadistic, with the amount of problems piled upon the young protagonist, chapter after chapter after chapter. False friends. Uncaring teachers. Inattentive parents. At every turn, no one to see things his way. At every turn, blame and shame. As a mom, it just made me want to scream, and knock some heads together. I'm getting those same feelings from the latest book I'm reading with my daughter, "Best Friends Forever?" We're maybe six chapters in, and if I didn't know better I'd think it might be a book about teen suicide, because man, the author is hard on her young narrator. And I know from reading the back cover that there's more unhappiness to come before -- oh, usually it's the last chapter or so -- everything works out happily. It's said that kids are so miserable in these years of their lives, so into the drama of their days, that they want to read about other kids having jackhammer-like problems so they can relate. Maybe. But man, couldn't we just lighten up a little bit? Some kids need their moms reading along, and this stuff's bringing me down.

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