The Perks of Being a Wallflower?

The trailer for The Perks of Being a Wallflower premiered last night during the MTV Movie Awards:

(Video taken from The Leaky Cauldron)

The idea behind this book is that the main character, Charlie, writes letters to this anonymous reader (presumably the book’s author) about the struggles of being a teenager who is neither sporty nor popular… a wallflower. He makes some friends who help him find himself, but then the book ends on a tragic note. And it’s this tragic note that made me rethink my opinion of the book. In that one moment, what was a wonderful book that I would give to a teenage to read suddenly turned into one of those sensationalist teenage novels in the category of Go Ask Alice. Perhaps I’m exaggerating to myself, but my ultimate point remains the same :

When I was a teenager, I found my solace in Anne Rice. I was attracted to the tone of her novels, which were both dark but possess a sort of Gothic optimism that I needed to read at the time. For this reason, I don’t begrudge teens for reading dark fiction. But I didn’t have Harry Potter as a teen. I was almost at the end of high school and the angsty teenage phase when Sorcerer’s Stone was released. I was more interested in reading the classics for my English classes than I was in current fiction.

Since Harry Potter, young adult and teen fiction took a new turn. The turn was already happening prior to Potter, but these books started to attract a number of adult readers and gained attention for the series. The darkness that only teens can identify began leaking to other demographics. Perhaps we knew that the 90s optimism was only a brief period of calm between the Cold War and whatever would come next.

I’m slowly getting tired of these dark novels dominating our culture. Vampires, zombies, teenage angst, Voldemort… There is little room for happiness, and it seems as though the entire culture has forgotten how to be happy. Messages of empowerment are lost among the popularity of these teenage tales. So rather than write some new, hopeful fiction, we have superheroes we hope will save us. But why aren’t we saving ourselves?

Teens should go through that underworld journey in order to grow, but in our country’s phobia about aging, are we forgetting how to leave the underworld as adults? Or are we just Orpheuses who made the mistake of turning around?

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