From Pessimism to Nihilism

Tuesday, March 20, 2018 -- 12:14 PM
Eliane Mitchell

Young adult dystopian novels like Divergent and The Hunger Games may have ruled the marketplace in the 2010s, but now there's a new trend in young adult literature: the teen suicide story. Stories of teens committing (or ideating) suicide, like Thirteen Reasons Why and Dear Evan Hansen, have become the new obsession.

But why? This article gives a somewhat Freudian analysis of the lastest trends in young adult literature, paralleling the success of the last wave of YA dystopias (from Feed in 2005 to Divergent in 2014) to the trauma that Americans experienced in the aftermath of 9/11 and the 2008 economic collapse. These dystopian novels told of corrupt societies, yet maintained a kind of hope. In many of their stories, the societal injustices and issues that they sketched were never beyond a handful of teenagers' abilities to fix.

Today, however, teen suicide stories tell a more nihilistic narrative: one that cannot imagine the world getting better. This trend could reflect our current epoch, in which young people will make less money than their parents, inherit climate change, and now live under a presidential administration that seems driven to "hasten [our] end."

But is young adult literature really a useful gauge for understanding the American psyche, as this article argues? Are you convinced by this author's explanation for why a sense of nihilism is now trending in young adult books?

Read the article here: https://www.vox.com/culture/2017/10/18/15881100/ya-dystopia-teen-suicide...

Comments (1)


Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Wednesday, March 21, 2018 -- 12:08 PM

Sigmund had some ideas about

Sigmund had some ideas about people and why they do what they do. Some still believe he contributed much to our understanding of ourselves. Others do not necessarily agree. In many ways, we still do what we used to do. But, I don't think Freud could have wrapped his head around events such as 9/11 or the 2008 meltdown. I cannot put a professional tag upon the following, although intuition plays a small role in what I'm about to offer. Ever since the emergence of the Gothic movement; millenialism; extreme sports and certain other devil-may-care attitudes and behaviors, there has been a tilt towards the dark and bizarre aspects of human existence. Cultural and sociological changes have altered our world, such that some attitudes and behaviors are radically different from those of, say, the 1960s and 70s.

Another contributing factor, I believe, is the fact that young Americans are more fully aware of graft and corruption, in most all of its/their forms, from purely capitalistic endeavors to those involving saving mortal souls (no, I did not mean IMmortal) and the gamut betwixt and between. Throw in the tendency of modern children being unable to mind their own business (one aspect of this, then and now called 'bullying'); the ever-more-elevated worship of competition; and a sense that their elders have no grasp of how to engage in polite discourse, let alone how to negotiate and cooperate with other countries' leaders and the witches' brew gets messier and messier. I am reading Carson's SILENT SPRING for the first time. It was written (and she died) before I graduated high school. Would any young person have the slightest interest in this book today? Maybe so or maybe no. I see why they are careless with life: there ain't much of a future in it. Especially if we cannot wake up to threats to our very existence. Fortunately, the game's not over---yet.

 
 
 

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