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Young Adult Literature
Although the term “young adult” did not come into common use until the 1960s, many scholars contend that the genre of young adult literature began after World War II when the age group from twelve through nineteen gained widespread acceptance as a discrete developmental stage. In contrast to children’s literature, which reaffirms the child’s place in the world, young adult literature helps adolescents make sense of their world, discover they are not alone, and find their place in society. Although young adult literature focuses on teenaged characters, its dominant themes echo many of the same themes explored in global literature—love, good versus evil, personal morality, and the individual versus society. Whether the story takes place in a realistic setting, a fantasy world, or a dystopian society, young adult literature explores these themes in ways that help readers navigate the difficult passage from childhood to adulthood and encourages them to identify with the characters and imagine how they would meet the same challenges. Roberta S. Trites, a professor of English and specialist in children’s and young adult literature, posits that young adult literature ultimately reflects the struggle of adolescents to answer the question raised in T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”: “Do I dare disturb the universe?”
■ (A) Like the young people who typify its audience, young adult literature has undergone a tumultuous evolution in a relatively short time span. ■ (B) From the mid-1940s into the early twenty-first century, it sometimes reflected and sometimes challenged social norms. ■ (C) The earliest example may be Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly, a novel published in 1942 that explored first love and adolescent rites of passage. ■ (D) That particular work spawned similar novels focusing on the day-to-day concerns of teenagers as they developed their own music, language, dress, and attitudes, seeking to distance themselves from their parents and other adults.
In the 1950s and throughout the unruly 1960s, young adult literature took on the character of contemporary society, and its treatment of the dominant themes darkened. Two groundbreaking young adult novels— A Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, published in 1951, and The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton, published in 1967—offered mature and realistic looks at troubled adolescents. Michael Cart, an expert in young adult literature, noted that the focus on culture and serious themes in these two novels, among others, made it more acceptable for the next generation of young adult authors to write candidly about teen issues. During the 1970s, young adult readers learned about sexual development in Judy Blume’s Deenie, dove into the mysterious society at the heart of Lois Lowry’s novel The Giver, and suffered with the protagonist as he took a stand against authority in Robert Cormier’s novel The Chocolate War.
After a brief lull in which novels featured lighter content, focusing on relatively innocent teen social drama or Hollywood-style horror, young adult fiction experienced a resurgence of popularity at the start of the twenty-first century when authors shifted to unreal topics such as fantasy, the paranormal, and dystopia. Although these novels are set in strange worlds, the characters exhibit emotions and undergo transformative experiences that contemporary teens share and understand. “Teens are caught between two worlds, childhood and adulthood, and in young adult literature, they can navigate those two worlds and sometimes dualities of other worlds,” said Jennifer Lynn Barnes, a young adult author and scientist who studies human behavior.
Yet young adult authors have not completely abandoned realism in favor of fantasy. Novelists such as John Green and Sarah Dessen explore the same themes and adversities in realistic modern-day settings. Although they and other contemporary young adult authors do not write about worldwide cataclysms such as those in Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and Divergent, they do not shrink from the harsh realities of life that individuals must face. Protagonists come up against decisions about self-identity, race, gender, sex, and sexuality, which are universal concerns that people of all ages grapple with. Critic Michael Cart notes that all young adult literature tackles difficult themes and “equips readers for dealing with the realities of impending adulthood and for assuming the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.”
In paragraph 1, the author of the passage implies that
Why does the author mention the poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” in paragraph 1?
The phrase “that particular work” in paragraph 2 refers to
The word unruly in paragraph 3 is closest in meaning to
According to paragraph 3, young adult authors were able to write more honestly because
In paragraphs 2 and 3, the author mentions all of the following as themes in young adult literature EXCEPT
Which of the following best expresses the essential information in the highlighted sentence in paragraph 4? Incorrect answer choices change the meaning in important ways or leave out essential information.
Which of the following can be inferred from the quote from Michael Cart in paragraph 5?
Look at the four squares [▪] in paragraph 2 that indicate where the following sentence could be added to the passage.
In its formative years, the genre more often did the former, working with relatively light subject matter.
Where would the sentence fit best?
Directions: An introductory sentence for a brief summary of the passage is provided below. Complete the summary by selecting the THREE answer choices that express the most important ideas in the passage. Some answer choices do not belong in the summary because they express ideas that are not presented in the passage or are minor details in the passage. This question is worth 2 points.
Fiction for young adults, a relatively new form of literature, took form as teenagers were first considered a distinct group of readers.