Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Inner Truth of Teenagers

Why do teens love dystopia?  Well, according to Patrick Ness, best known for his extraordinary Chaos Walking trilogy, “Arbitrary authoritarian rulers. Nothing makes sense and there is no escape.  The grim social order is relieved by flashes of personal connection here and there...
Let’s face it, high school IS dystopia!” 

I got to hear Ness speak last month in Chicago at the “Bleak New World: YA Authors Decode Dystopia.” Which was, hands down, my favorite event at the American Library Association convention.  Of course it was also my first event. But honestly, look at these luminaries! Lois Lowry, Veronica Roth, Cory Doctorow.  What’s not to like? Interestingly, Ness, who is the least famous, is also by far the best speaker.

Ness went on to say that, in order to be successful, all teen genres somehow convey the “inner truth” of the teenager. So, for example, adults may think Twilight is ridiculous, but to a teen it expresses the  truth that one may love someone whom others consider a monster, the idea the world is well lost for love. 

How do we channel the “inner truth” of an age we have long left behind, at least chronologically? Do different ages have different “inner truths?” What do you think of this idea?


  1. I bet that was a great panel. Ness would've been who I was most excited for- Chaos Walking was one amazing roller coaster. I shed major tears for that book, lol!

  2. Our teen librarian in Livingston still hasn't forgiven him for the dog dying in The Knife of Never Letting Go! I told him that and he laughed.

  3. Wow, I love this post Ariel. I think one of the issues I have with the popularity of "crossover" YA is that we've forgotten that while these books have universal themes and can be read and enjoyed by anyone of any age, there are some books written specifically for a teenage audience. Whenever I come across a review about a book I love that someone is complaining about the MC being whiny, or self-centered or "no one falls in love that fast", I wonder if they remember what it was like to be a teenager. For me, being whiny, self-centered and falling in love in the blink of an eye WERE inner truths of my teenage years. "High School is dystopia" - LOVE IT!!

    1. Yes, aren't Romeo & Juliet surprisingly realistic teenagers? Ready to risk everything for someone they barely know.

    2. Yes, aren't Romeo & Juliet surprisingly realistic teenagers? Ready to risk everything for someone they barely know.

  4. Yup. The depth of teenage feelings know no bottom.