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Trends in YA reading, part two

In the Sunday edition of The New York Times, Naomi Wolf addressed a troubling increase of a certain class of books targeted at young female readers. The books, which include Lisi Harrison’s Clique series, Cecily von Ziegesar’s Gossip Girl books, and the A-List series, penned by a married couple who write under the pseudonym Zoey Dean, are full of PDA- and Prada-toting seventh-graders and equally rich high-school seniors who alternate between having a lot of sex and calling each other sluts.

While this privileged-teen world might at first evoke films like Mean Girls or Clueless, the books dispense of the moral issues those films contain. Instead of charting, for example, a clique leader’s willful move to outsider status, or otherwise delegitimizing conventional teen status symbols, the books enact the unequivocal triumph of wealth, superficiality, and cruelty.

For Wolf, the books show an emulation of rich and powerful adults and a departure from more emotionally complex and intellectually stimulating young adult books. “The great reads of adolescence have classically been critiques of the corrupt or banal adult world,” she writes. “It’s sad if the point of reading for many girls now is no longer to take the adult world apart but to squeeze into it all the more compliantly. Sex and shopping take their places on a barren stage, as though, even for teenagers, these are the only dramas left.”

Related links:
Click here for Wolf’s piece in The New York Times
Click here for a follow-up Q&A with Wolf, published March 16, 2006