Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Breakin The Law in YA Novels

I just finished reading Sweethearts by Sara Zarr, a brilliant YA novel that has these wonderful, compelling characters and a dark, magnetic storyline. I was so hooked. Have you read this novel? If not, go run to the bookstore and get it right now. Then, come back here. I'll wait. haha

Anyway, in Sweethearts, there was an element of stealing, which played into the heroine's persona, her view on life, her struggles, etc.

Even though I've read a lot of YA, I haven't run across stealing, or other crimes being broken, in books a lot. The biggest one I see is drinking--in Amanda Marrone's Uninvited, alcoholism is a rampant problem. And in Jennifer Echols' Going Too Far, there's lots of lawbreaking, which is pretty much the purpose of the story. LOL. But then again, it's not like my friends and I got the old "five-finger discount" or went to wild drinking parties when we were in high school, so I wasn't exactly looking for it. I was very much a goody-two-shoes and would never have dreamed of shoplifting or getting drunk.

In fact, the only memory I have of stealing was when I was, like, 5 years old--I think I'd stolen a pencil, or a small piece of candy or something. My mom saw what I did and marched me back in the store to give it back and apologize to the clerk. I was mortified when I realized what I'd done was wrong and that I was in big trouble.

Have you read any YA books that have stealing (or some other crime) as part of the plot? Does it bother you to read about teens committing crimes, or do you consider that to be part of the realism of YA? When you were a teen, did you ever, um, "liberate" anything? haha.


  1. There's a trend lately in a lot of YA novels--they're calling it Disaster Lit. I've read a few articles about a lot of YA dealing with serious issues and outlining real problems. I think it's good. The books are addressing things that a lot of youth deal with, maybe not stealing (but who knows, right?), but drugs, alcohol, sex, rape, getting sucked in to a culture you know is wrong. It happens. And I think teens appreciate reading something that they can relate to. I think the fluffy, happy stuff will always be prevelant though (because everyone needs an ideal/escape).

    PS The Book Thief (great book!) deals with "liberating" ;) books too.

  2. In middle-grade fiction, there's Barthe De Clements's FIVE FINGER DISCOUNT and its sequels. In those books, the protagonist's dad is in prison for theft, IIRC, and the protagonist at one point does shoplift something...

  3. Disaster Lit? I haven't heard that before. I read Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott, where the main character's mother teaches her to lie and cheat her way through things. I thought it was really good. :] As for if reading about teens stealing things bother me, not at all! I think it's good that YA books are covering all sorts of topics. That's the point of literature, to open our eyes and make us more aware of what's going on. The world of teenagers can be just as complex as adults, if not more.

  4. I think that I would rather have my readers explore these issues from the safety of fiction than learn the consequences by living it. Ya know?

  5. I would never have stolen from a store. Oddly, though, I was part of the crew that would steal street signs, pumpkins, that sort of thing. Flags, if I remember correctly.

    I viewed one as a terrible thing to do and the other as a prank.

    I don't do that anymore, btw. LOL

  6. I agree with Gwen. I think it's good to explore these issues through long as it is not portrayed as glamorous and a cool thing to do with no consequences.