Teenagers and Literature

Adolescence is defined as the time between the beginning of sexual maturation, puberty and adulthood. It is considered to be the period between ages 13 and 19 and is largely characterized as the beginning and ending of the teenage stage of life. During this period teenagers experience not only physical growth and change but also emotional, psychological, social and mental change and growth. Books have a powerful influence on people of all ages but especially on teenagers. Literature may offer moral and political values as well as certain beliefs.

One of the reasons for teaching literature in school is to reinforce the values that teenagers are taught in the home. Literature can also enlarge the students' world, help them see a variety of ways of coping with life's problems and encourage them to determine for themselves the difference between vice and virtue. Struggling with family problems can be an emotional process for teenagers. Using literature to help teenagers understand the issues they are going through offers the ability to view someone who is going through a similar situation to theirs. Some teenagers are drawn to fiction while others enjoy non-fiction. Both types could help troubled teenagers who are coming to terms with problems in their lives. Being literate increases a person's chances of enjoying good mental health. Therefore, literature could help teenagers deal with issues including divorce, parental illness, alcoholism, foster care, eating disorders, different sexual orientation and depression. Therefore, professionals and parents are able encourage teenagers to deal with their family issues and emotional problems by improving their reading and writing skills.

The search for identity is an ancient quest reflected throughout history in myths and stories where human glory and conquest are often layered with great pain and self doubt. This quest is found prevalently in young adult novels, where characters wrestle with modern dilemmas in order to find themselves. This reference resource provides a link for teachers, media specialists, parents and other adults to those novels and how to use them effectively. Educators and therapists have explored literature where common identity issues are addressed in ways intriguing to teenagers. Using fictional characters, these experts provide guidance on how to encourage adolescents to cope while improving their reading and writing skills.

Mark Twain (1835-1910), otherwise known as Samuel Langhorne Clememens, is indisputably among the authors that every child is familiar with in the United States school system. He is most noted for his novels, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), the latter often called "the Great American Novel." Alexandre Dumas's (1802-1870) The Count of Monte Cristo (1846) is popular with teenagers as it recounts the swashbuckling adventures of Edmond Dantes, a dashing young sailor falsely accused of treason.

When it comes to modern fantasy literature, the name of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973) should be mentioned in relation to literature and teenagers. His classic high fantasy works The Hobbit (1937), The Lord of the Rings (1937-1949), and The Silmarillion (1977) have been on teenagers' favorite reading lists for years. Among the books that have gained immense popularity and described as a "publishing phenomenon" is the seven-book series of the Harry Potter (1997-2007) novels written by J. K. Rowling, making the author a billionaire. This series about the adventures of a wizard and his friends has been published in 69 different languages and 400 million copies have been sold worldwide in 200 countries.

The Twilight series of books by Stephenie Meyer, who explains that she started writing the books after Edward and Bella after a vivid dream. "In my dream two people were having an intense conversation in a meadow in the woods. One of these people was just your average girl. The other person was fantastically beautiful, sparkly, and a vampire." The books, which include Twilight (2005), New Moon (2006), Eclipse (2007) and Breaking Dawn (2008), have a huge army of teenage fans and have been followed by a series of popular films. Graphic novels are another popular source of literature for teenagers and in particular the manga novel, which is best described as Japanese comics translated into English with colorful cartoons. In Japanese "manga" means "flowing words" and is an ancient art used for centuries as a form of entertainment. In the United States and Europe, where there is a big following by teenagers of this genre, the graphic novel is generally aimed at 12 to 18 year olds.

Teenagers and Literature: Selected full-text books and articles

Bullies, Gangs, and Books for Young Adults By Steiner, Stan; Steiner, Ben Young Adult Library Services, Vol. 7, No. 4, Summer 2009
Creating Transformational Spaces: High School Book Clubs with Inner-City Adolescent Females By Polleck, Jody N High School Journal, Vol. 93, No. 2, January-February 2010
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