TADMACK at Finding Wonderland: The Writing YA Weblog brought up the question of whether YA fiction needs to have a happy ending and referred me to Rosemary Graham's blog, Not-So-Terrible After All, where the same question is being discussed.
Evidently this was all inspired by a New York Times Book Review by Polly Shulman that begins "Moralizing may have gone out of fashion in adult fiction a century ago, but it remains a staple of children's literature. The annual awards lists are full of inspiring stories in which a brave and sensitive young person triumphs over modern evils like political oppression, sexism and racism." It ends with "But the tidy resolution, a staple of both the 21st-century serious young adult novel and its Victorian forebears, lacks conviction, as if Glass doesn't quite believe in the redemption her genre requires." (The book being reviewed is The Year the Gypsies Came by Linzi Glass.)
TADMACK and one of Rosemary's commenters talked about having studied writing for YA and learning that such writing should offer at least a little hope. This is where my lack of education in my field reaches up and bites me in the backside. Because when I read Shulman's review, I couldn't apply it to anything I'd learned about providing redemption and hope for the young. All I could do was think, "How condescending."
When I think of "inspiring stories in which a brave and sensitive young person triumphs over modern evils like political oppression, sexism and racism," I don't think YA. I think Oprah! YA doesn't require redemption. Women's victim stories do.
Yes, the annual awards lists may be full of these kinds of titles. But, personally, I think it's because the adults who select the titles like to read them. It doesn't have anything to do with the requirements of the genre itself.
But maybe if I knew more about what I'm doing, I wouldn't find reading these kinds of things so annoying. A little more education could provide a calming influence.