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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Why do teens like dark fiction? 8th graders respond.

The New York Times recently ran a "Room for Debate" discussion in which a number of writers gave their opinions about why teens are reading books with dark themes and post-apocalyptic settings.  I introduced this question to my 8th grade class and had them discuss whether they enjoy these kinds of books, and if so, why?  Then I gave them a chance to read the articles and the comments and take some time to think.  The next day, we spent some time writing and discussing the trend and the types of books they would publish if they were in charge.  Here's a sampling of their thoughts.

“[The articles and the comments] kind of made me laugh since most of those people were probably adults arguing about what people like me feel….  If I were asked to write about why teens love dark fiction, I’d say it’s because I think we love the reaction and emotion it causes us to read about…[creepy/violent things] we highly doubt we’ll ever see…and never thought how we would react to it.”  --YamiHeart

“I agree with both the idea of escapism and the idea that we read them because it is happening in our world…there are bad things in our world, but it’s not like a book—there’s no hero.”  --Kathryn

“We aren’t always all dark and scary.  I know that my favorite books, and almost all of my friends’ favorites, are books about real life.  It helps us learn, when we see how other teens (even if fictional) deal with real life problems.” --WhatcyoNameIs

“We want to hear and think new things…we want more adventure than what our normal lives have to offer.”  --Zari

“My argument would be that the hype and the popularity of these types of books makes teen read them.  I would publish happy comedies—I like biographies and autobiographies, and also happy books.” --Jafra

“Teens like to escape into a world where there are troubles more vastly dangerous and deadly than dating and bad hair days.” –DJ

“I think teens are attracted to the parallel of the characters; they’re so different, and yet so much alike.  It’s interesting to compare ourselves to them.”  --Kyra

“I thought there were some good thoughts [in those articles], especially about how people read these dystopian books that are filled with drama, adventure, etc…to escape our everyday world.”  --Caitlin

“I would publish scary, exciting, full-of-action types of books.  I would try getting YAs to read my books by making them interesting, action-packed, full of explosions on the covers.” –Abbey

“Our daily lives are boring so these books are like a chance to get away and think, “What if life was actually exciting like this?” It’s fun to put yourself in the main character’s shoes.” –Brynn

“Teens like to think that they could possibly be in a dark situation and be strong enough to get out of it.” –Sophia

“These articles all sort of captured why I read books like these.  We watch too much violent TV.  I would publish funny books with a good storyline.”  --Matt

“Teenagers are bored of their normal lives, so they read books about ‘dark’ places and people….  Usually the characters are very different from me, but I love to imagine myself in their situation.  I would publish books that are mysterious, gripping, and dramatic.”  --swimfreak110396

“I would publish fantasy, mostly medieval.”  --Jarrid

“Because our teenage lives are just so drab and boring and just plain old blech, we want to escape.” –Jess

“People want to imagine what if I was in this?  What would it be like? Teens don’t like reading about things and people that are like them in books because they are trying to get away from that.  But some people who are having hard, difficult, dark times might read them to know they aren’t alone…” –Eva

“Maybe people who do go through a tough life everyday like to read these books because it’s not real.  They can escape into the life that’s not real, and if they are okay at the end, it might give them hope.”  --Emma

“We like to read about the unimaginable, the creative, creepy things excite us more than our old same routines.” –Alexis

“Well, it’s not that all teens are dark and vivid, it’s just that when you do have a lot of things going on, or if your life is just plain boring, you use these dystopian or dark books as a getaway.  You just kinda blend into everything in the book.”  --Amanda

“My opinion is that teens enjoy darker themes because it may be something they can relate to.  If they read a book they can relate to, it may make them feel like people do understand or they’re not so alone.” –Augezt Fire

“It’s a way for us to read about something that’s never going to happen.  Just to think about what it would be like if that actually were to happen.”  --Caleb

“I would focus on war books—sci-fi war books.”  --Logan

“Teens would like to read about things that aren’t real…. I would publish the dark fiction because that seems the most fun to both read and write.” –Skylar

“Teens do like scary stories with darkness and death.  They don’t have to live in this fake world.”  --Jason Huntington

ETA: if you're ages 10-18, you should go fill out this survey about what you like in your favorite kind of Middle Grade or Young Adult books!  http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/BV3365M


  1. cool it looks light nice thoughts 8th graders

  2. Damn, I love teenagers. Seriously, these comments perfectly illustrate why I love and admire them so much. What insight. They sounds like a great bunch!

  3. yeah i know my comment is thwe best lol\

  4. FreakyNinjaLogan workon spelling awesome tho

  5. I totaly agree alot of us like reading books to exape are lives.

  6. i loved this book it is so sad but very dark and interesting


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