DOCUMENT ItF. SUMP ED 024 674 TE 000 873 By- Davis, James E. Recent Trends in Fiction for Adolescents. Pub Date May 67 Note-6p. Journal Cit- English Journal;v56n5p720-24May1967 EDRS PriceMF-S0.25 HC-$0.40 Descriptors- *Adolescents, *English Instruction, Fiction, *Literature, *Novels. *Twentieth Century Literature To determine present trends in junior novels, researchers compared 23 novels written after 1959 with characteristics of junior novels written before thatdate. The following trends were identified: (1) The action in the majority of novels occurs over a fewmonths.(2)Simple and compound sentencesoften connected by "and" predominate. (3) The unrealistic success of heroes is giving way to success achieved with some difficulty. (4) Characters are fundamentally serious, complex, anddignified. (5) The ages of heroes and heroines vary from nine to middle age. (6) Although the middle-class standards of living are reflected in the majority of the novels, exceptions to this are frequently evident. (7) Profanity or allusions to sexual activity areseldom used. (8) Although the omniscient point of view predominates, experimentation(e.g., shifts in point of view within a novel) is taking place. (9) Didacticism is evident in most novels. (10) Themes reflect not only the adolescent's problems in growing up, but also some use of satire and the areasof racialtension, science fiction, and the depression years. Many of the recent junior novels are well-written and "are improving to the point that some of them may well survive as classics." (SW) U.S. DEPARTMENT Of HEALTH, EDUCATION 8. WELfARE OffICE Of EDUCATION
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MAY 1967 Recent Trends in Fiction for Adolescents "PERMISSION TO REPRODUCE THIS COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL HAS BEEN GRANTED James E. Davis BY 15a-4.4../2.1--g. ove-r-z- Associate Professor of English TO ERIC AND ORGANIZATIONS OPERATING Morehead State University UNDER AGREEMENTS WITH THE U.S. OFFICE OF Morehead, Kentucky EDUCATION. FURTHER REPRODUCTION OUTSIDE THE ERIC SYSTEM REQUIRES PERMISSION OF THE COPYRIGHT OWNER." THIS article could more appropriatelythe junior novels are generally poorly Abe entitled "Trends in the Juniorwritten, but that others, including Stan- Novel Since 1959," but in light of theley Kegler and Stephen Dunning, have controversial nature of that title, a moreargued that they are improving in qual- euphemistic one was chosen. The firstity (English Journal, May 1964, p. 391). phase of this investigation was a study of Studies by Bertha Handlan, Richard the research conducted snd writtenAlm, Dorothy Petitt, William Evans, about the junior novel, especially unpub-Nathan Blount, and Dwight Burton were lished research, to discover some of itsalso consulted for background informa- main characteristics up to the year 1959.tion on both the characteristics of the Some of the studies bear later dates, butjunior novel and reactions to it. Infor- the selection of novels in them does notmation in these studies provided the basis go in to the Sixties. The second phasefor all comments here regarding the ju- was to select junior novels written sincenior novels which were written before 1959 to compare and contrast them with1960. To limit the number of books to those written before that date. be studied, a list of 88 books was Fe- Some of the questions to be answeredpared from authors suggested by Dwight were: (1) To what extent is the genre,L. Burton and John Simmons, Depart- if it is that, being perpetuated? (2) Whatment of English Education, Florida State changes in terms of themes and styleUniversity; Robert E. Shafer, Depart- have been taking place? (3) Is the juniorment of English, Arizona State Umver- novel still generally well-written? Re-sity at Tempe; Juanita Devette, Librar- garding the third question, it might beian,FloridaStateUniversity High pointed out that many critics, includingSchool; Agnes Gregory of the Florida Frank Jennings, who is quoted by Dunn-State University Library School. Books ing, in his study,1 have maintained thatfor You; Horizons Unlimited, Books in Print,thesemiannual"Junior Book lArthur Stephenson Dunning. A DefinitionRound-Up" inEnglish Journal, and of the Role of the junior Novel Based onScholasticBookServiceswerealso Analyses of Thirty Selected Novels. Unpub- lished doctoral dissertation (Tallahassee: Floridaconsulted. State University, 1959). The process of limiting the list to a
720 TRENDS IN FICTION FOR ADOLESCENTS 721 more realistic number for the purposesthe 23 novels studied here, this is also and scope of this study was quite diffi-true. The time is usually only a few cult. Books which appeared on moremonths. Of the two exceptions, Snow in than one list were retained along withthe River covers about 20 years, and books which were highly recommended,A Wrinkle in Time covers many light or seemed likely to show some newyears but only one earth day. Time trend. Preference was also given to booksmoved forward in most of the books by authors who had been dealt with pre-Petitt reviewed, as it does in all the books viously in studies of the junior novel tostudied here, except A Wrinkle in Time, see what changes had occurred in thewhere "tessering" makes it a little hard content and style of long-established ju-to say. nior novelists. Admittedly, the process One of the important matters of style, oflimitation,thoughnecessary, wasespecially in terms of the audience for highly unscientific. A list of the 23 novelswhich these novels are written, is sen- finally chosen appears at the end oftence length. Petitt's observation (p. 338) this article. that the adolescent novels were written predominantly in simple and compound THESE 23 novels were reviewed insentences most often connected by 'and" -I- several areasfor the most part areasstill seems to hold true, although the suggested in one or more of the studieswriters are by no means confined to consulted. The areas include: time, sen-compound and simple constructions. tence length, hero's success, treatment of According to Dunning (p. 65), the life, age of protagonist, mores and livinghero of the junior novel is usually suc- standards reflected,use of profanity,cessful in solving the problems which treatment of sex, point of view, didacti-confront him or in reaching the goal he cism, thematic concerns, and contempo-has set for himself. Sometimes this suc- raneity.2 cess is achieved easily, and sometimes Dorothy Petitt3 says that the actionwith great difficulty. Success does not in most of the novels she studied oc-come easily in any of these 23 books! curred in a year or less (p. 314). In 21 ofThe trend seems to be, happily, away from the unrealistic easy success. This is 21n addition to the kudies from which I quotevery closely connected with treatment in thisarticle,I have also investigated theof life in the books. Alm's "honest por- following: (1) Nathan S. Blount. The ?ct of Selected Junior Novels and Selected Adulttrayal of human life"4 (p. 598), Dunn- Novels on Student Attitudes Toward theing's "pretend to treat life truthfully" "Ideal" Novel. Unpublished doctoral disserta-(p. 61), and Burton's "fundamentally ser- tion(Tallahassee:FloridaStateUniversity, ious, presenting characters who are com- 1963). (2) William Howard Evans. A Com- parison of the Effects of a Superior Juniorplex people with dignity"5 (p. 65), are Novel and Silas Marner on the Ability ofcertainly continued in these 23 novels. Tenth-Grade Students To Read the Novel. Un- Among his Recommended Novels, publisheddoctoraldissertation(Tallahassee: Alm found heroes and heroines to be Florida State University,1961).(3)Berthaabout the saint age-17. Among his Not Hand Ian. A Comparison of the Characteristics of Certain Adolescent Reading and the Quali- ties of the Books They Read. Unpublished doc- 4Richard S. Alm. A Study of the Assumptions toral dissertation (Minneapolis: University ofConcerning Human ExperienceUnderlying Minnesota, 1945). Certain Works of Fiction For and About Ado- aDorothy J. Petitt. A Study of the Qualities lescents.Unpublisheddoctoraldissertation of Literary Excellence Which Characterize (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1954). Selected Fiction for Younger Adolescents. Un- aDwight L Burton. Literature Study in the published doctoral dissertation(Minneapolis: High Schools (New York: Holt, Rinehart and University of Minnesota, 1961). Winkon, 1954). 722 ENGLISHJOURNAL , Recommended novels, he found two age carpet. He could forgive her anything. groups: (1) 14-15 and (2) 19-20. In my (p. 113) study there are many exceptions to this: Roosevelt Grady has a hero nine years Although there are only one or two old. Sergeant Williams, in Silence Overkisses in Almost Like Sisters, Victoria, Dunkerque, is in his late thirties. Georgethe 17-year7old, becomes jealous of her is ten and Raymond 11 in Raymond andmother when Pietro, the Italian graduate Me That Summer. Hosteen Storm, instudent who has been dating Victoria, Lord of Thunder, is probably in his mid-kisses Mrs. Logan happy New Year. twenties, though his age is not stated.Victoria causes quite a scene. At the end The title character in Jamie is 12. Theof the story, Mrs. Logan is going to characters in Snow in the River aremarry an old family friend, and she and middle-aged by the close of the novel,her fiancee go off to have dinner leaving and none of their teen-age experiencesVictoria alone with Pietro in the apart- is recounted. ment. Admittedly, this is pretty mild and Dunning says that "most junior novelsreflects no trend. reflect the mores and living standards of Petitt observed that junior novels were the upper middle class"(pp. 64-65).told either by a first-person narrator, Sociallyandeconomically,fortunate athird-personomniscientobserver- families.are still treated in the main, butanalyst, or an effaced narrator (p. 319), there are enough exceptions to indicatewhereas Burton says that they are told a trendSavage Sam, Roosevelt Grady,almost invariably from an "omiscient" Raymond and Me That Summer, Bristlepoint of view (p. 64). Certainly omnis- Face, Jamie, The Far-Off Land, Wind-cient point of view still predoininates, igo, Catseye, and Drop-Out. Nine of thebut some interesting experimentation is 23 are a large minority. going on. For example, in The Shelter Trap, there are four points of view at OTH Dunning and Burton agree thatdifferent times, and with each shift there Bthese books seldom contain eitheris also a marked shift in language. Some- profanity, or allusions to any sexualtimes the point of view is that of the activity other than kisses. This isstillauthor and not one of his characters. true for the most part, but a hard lookWho Wants Music on Monday? is told revealed some profanity in The Pond andfrom four points of view also, with a some slight taboo violations in Snow inslight shift in emphasis, style, and even the River and Almost Like Sisters. Forstructure with each shift. Raymond and example, from Snow in the River: Me That Summer is very intimate first A thin girl with untidy hair and a pairperson in the diction of a ten-year-old of sailor's boots on her feet sat in a cor-(George). Occasionally, George does not ner opposite, and looked at him withtell details that are "not the reader's calculating eyes. He avoided her gaze,business," as he says. Classmates by Re- and when she followed him into thequest has two points of view, one giving street, lu; had no patience with her. Hea high school Negro girl's viewpoint on shook her plucking fingers off his sleeve.integration and the other giving that of "Nay lass, ye're too easy," he said. "Ia white high school girl. Although in like to pick my own." (p. 20)Snow in the River the daughter of Angus McBain serves as a kind of "carrier of and later in the same book: memories," and the point of view is He looked down at the flower-cladreally omniscient, the emphasis shifts shoulders, the bare, pink tipped breasts,from character to character. the small feet naked on the red hotel Dunning, Petitt, and Burton say that
I. TRENDS IN FICTIONFOR ADOLESCENTS 723 the junior novel is didactic,but lessfiction written for adolescents whichhas directly so than earlier counterpartsinknown adolescent activities orinterests the history of the developmentof aas centralelements of the plot. It pre- literature for young people.Petitt saystends to treat life truthfully" (p.61). that often "an older charactertakes onLater as two of his fivecharacteristics of the function of giving adviceand inter-the junior novel, Dunning saysthat they preting the meaning of eventsfor themirror adolescent's interestsaccurately heroine. These passagesand that maturity or growing upis a young hero and is in are always tied to asituation; they nevertypical thematic concern. Burton represent advice orgeneralizations aboutagreement. human nature unrelated to thatsituation" Certainly these same thematic con- cerns hold true,but Summers has added (p. 309). satire. In The Shelter Trap, he seems to TN 19 of the 23 novels includedin thissatirize the following: (1) teachers gen- study, didacticism is quiteevident.erally, (2) talented students, (3)special In most of these 19 there isalso an oldereducation, (4) civil defense, (5)educa- character who takes on the functionoftional television, (6) parents, (7)jargon, Usually this older person(8) abstract sciences, (9)radio and tele- an interpreter. law en- is a parent, more often thefather, butvision commercials, and (10) and I),forcement officials. New thematic con- sometimes it is a coach (Pitcher of the other or a caretaker(The Pond), and in onecerns also occur in many case a burnt-out star,Mrs. Whatsit (Anovels. School dropouts and teen-age Wrinkle in Time). In The ShelterTrapmarriages are dealt with inDrop-Out. didacticism seems to be satirized in theRace relations are treated inRoosevelt Miss Barret. OnlyGrady (which also concerns themigrant person of the teacher, Mon- SilenceOverDunkerque,Rooseveltworker). In Who Wants Music on Grady, and Savage Sam have noevidentday? Vince has both a white SouthCaro- didacticism. A Wrinkle in Time andlinian and a Negro as roommates,and The Far-Off Land contain theNewthe race theme is also presentin The Testament message of love. The authorPond in Joey's relationship toSharkee, Jamie Car- seems to preachthrough the charactersthe Negro hermit. In Jamie, in Classmates hy Request. Annixter mor-son's friendship with Kiewet, aNegro alizes directly only on the last page"Ifboy his own age, provides one ofthe there was a Windigo it was thedemonmain themes. Internal resentmentof a of greed and hate and fear that gotinto-Negro fireman to a whiteengirieer on explores men's minds. ...But the Valley itselfthe train also appears. Bennett blameless, as his father hadthis more fully as race conflict inMister was pure and Request always said" (p. 196). Fisherman (1965). Classmates by Alm says that "the themes reflect,foris also a story about integration. the most part, the major concernsof adolescentsthe need for a satisfactoryTHE depression years (Raymondand heterosexual adjustment, the desire for Me That Summer) seem to be arela- independence from adult authority, thetively new thematic area. Thereis a cer- need for affection and security. In mosttain broadening in both setting(modern of the stories, the characters are con-Africa) and mode (naturalistic irony)in cerned with the problems ofgrowingJamie. The Far-Off Land andA-Wrinkle increasingly mature"in Time have strong overtonesof Chris- up, of becoming Science fiction, (pp. 112-113). Dunningimplies the sametian love and passivism. idea in his tentative definitionof thewith increased amounts offantasy, con- junior novel"an extended pieceof prosetinues as a popular theme inA Wrinkle 724 ENGLISHJOURNAL in Time, Lord of Thunder, and Catseye.Brink, Carol. Snow in the River. New A new emphasis in the historical novel, York: The Macmillan Company, 1964. which has had its ebbs and flows, is 308 pp. shown in Snow in the River, The Far-Caudill, Rebecca. The Far-Off Land. New Off Land, and Silence Over Dunkerque. York: The Viking Press, 1964. 237pp. Cavanna, Betty. Almost Like Sisters. New Although many of the novels are told York: William Morrow and Company, against a background of dropouts,teen- 1963. 254 pp. age marriages, racial tensions, war, theCole, Stephen. Pitcher and I. New York: bomb, conformity, and general anxiety, Farrar, Straus and Company, 1963. 156 there is also a romantic tendencyto go pp. far into the future with works like Cats-Colman, Hila. Classmates by Request. New eye and A Wrinkle in Time, in which York: William Morrow and Company, new vocabulary has to be created to 1964. 187 pp. cover the concepts, or backward in timeEyerly, Jeanette. Drop-Out. New York: J. to pioneer America (The Far-Off Land) B. Lippincott Company, 1963. 189pp. or the west of the past century (SavageFelson, Henry Gregor. Boy Gets Car. New York: Random House, 1960. 314pp. Sam or Snow in the River). Perhapsteen-Gipson, Fred. Savage Sam. New York: agers identify, consciously or sub-con- Harper and Row, 1962. 214pp. sciously, with characters whoare notL'Engle,` Madeleine. A Wrinkle iP Time. their contemporariesmore than we have New York: Farrar, Straus and Geroux, thought. Perhaps the time-lapse factor 1962. 211 pp. may even be an advantage if the char-Murphy, Robert. The Pond. New York: acters and events are treated truthfully. E. P. Dutton and Company, 1964. 254pp. Conclusions seem somewhatout ofNeville, Emily. It's Like This, Cat. New place here, since the entire York: Harper and Row, 1963. 180pp. 'Japer hasNorton, Andre. Catseye. New York: Har- consisted of them, but certainlysome court, Brace and World, Inc., 1961. 192 general observations are in order. The PP. junior novel is definitely beingperpetu- Lord of Thunder. New York: ated, withsome changes in thematic Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc., 1962. emphasis and limited but interestingex- 192 pp. perimentation in such aspecmas point ofPerry, Dick. Raymond and Me That Sum- view. The thematic shifts reflect such mer. New Yozk: Harcourt, Brace and obvious areas as racial tensionand space World, Inc. 1963. 182pp. travel, but the books also Scholz, Jackson. Dugout Tycoon.New seem to mdi- York: William Morrow and Company, cao a modest resurgence of the historical 1963. 254 pp. novel andsome use of satire. Many of the Sherburne, Zoa. River at Her Feet.New recent junior novels are not only well York: William Morrow and Company, mitten, but if the 23 studiedhere are in 1965. 189 pp. any way typical, they are improvingtoShotwell,LouisaR.RooseveltGrady. the point thatsome of them may well Cleveland, Ohio: The World Publishing survive as classics no longer labeled with Company, 1963. 151pp. a qualifier. Stolz, Mary. Who Wants Musicon Mon- day? New York: Harper andRow, 1963. Twenty-three Selected Junior Novels 267 pp. Annixter, Paul and Jane. Windigo.NewSummers, James L. The ShelterTrap. York: Holiday House, 1963.196 pp. Philadelphia: The WestminsterPress, Ball, Zachary. Bristle Face.New York: 1962. 160 pp. Holiday House, 1962. 219pp. Tunis, John R. Silence Over Bennett, Jack. Jamie, Boston: Little, Dunkerque. Brown, New York: William Morrow andCom- and Company, 1963. 243pp. pany, 1962. 215 pp.