Monday, September 14, 2009

Tweener Fiction Grows Up

by Katherine Holubitsky
ISBN No. 978-1-55143-851-1

by Susan Vaught
ISBN No. 978-1-59990-230-2

Books for adolescents have officially come of age. Long gone are the easy moral lessons tucked into reader-friendly adventures. Today's youth lit is dead serious and plays for keeps.
Take "Tweaked" for instance. It's about two young brothers, one of whom is a methhead. That's it. That's what the book is about. Kid gets hooked and drives his family to their respective breaking points as they try to get him into rehab. The book's most obvious connection to youth literature is that Holubitsky's narrator is the clean brother and his eyes are those of the book's reading audience. And what he sees will rightly scare kids straight (there's some very effective After School Television Special stuff about the physical ravages of meth) and make them think twice about using.
"Trigger" is a trickier piece of work and just as addictive a read whether you're a child or an adult. (I dunno...maybe it's just the manufactured pretensions of adult fiction but it's so nice to read books with linear storylines.) Essentially, "Trigger" is about a boy recovering from a bullet wound to the head and the subsequent brain injury it caused. But it's also about youth violence, their sense of invincibility and failure to consider consequences. But wait, there's more. The book is also about hearing voices, feeling different, peer pressure and what it might be like for survivors of the Columbine massacre after the headlines fade. The writing is forthright and direct; the story surprisingly affecting. For young readers it'll be like a friend telling you a secret. For adults and parents it'll be like a conversation with a usually laconic kid. "Trigger" a "Catcher in the Rye " for the millennium.