A Christmas Carol Rip Off: The Ghost of YA’s Past

It’s Christmas time which means that TV is showing various versions of A Christmas Carol.  Regardless of whether you celebrate Christmas , you’re  probably  familiar with the Charles Dickens classic mainly because various forms of media have done their own rip off of it.  So, today I’m doing my own quasi rip off of this holiday classic.  Except this version of A Christmas Carol is going to have no ghosts, no Scrooges, and it’s really not going to be that Christmas oriented to be honest.  Rather, I’m going to be looking at some of YA’s past and discuss how these books affected their time period (if they even did) and how we look at these books in today’s world.  I’ll also be doing a feature later this week on YA’s Present and hopefully YA’s future.   So without further ado, let’s look at some of YA’s past.

Romeo and Juliet is a Shakespeare play not a YA book.  But it has had great influence on the forbidden romance cliches in YA.  And there are tons of remakes of the story in YA today as well.  Honestly, I’ve never really got the appeal of this play.  I get that it’s Shakespeare and that there’s some really cool things he does with language, but the romance in this play….  Please.  I don’t see Romeo and Juliet as the star crossed lovers that the media portrays them to be.  Rather, I see them as two idiotic teenagers who fell blissfully in insta love before killing themselves (hey, that’s your typical YA love story).

Beverly Cleary was probably one of my favorite authors when I was under ten.  And I was amazed and delighted to find out that she had written books for teens as well.  This book is pretty sweet.  Cookie Cutter.  And I like it, even though the characters feel like they’re walking out of a Doris Day movie it works.  Sure, if it was written today it wouldn’t exactly have the charm it does now (usually I can’t stand YA’s chaste romances because they’re sooooo unrealistic), but Cleary makes a chaste romance work.

Cute movie just like this book.  Though both are not the most realistic depictions of romance in the world.

Incest is an unfortunate occasional feature in today’s YA world ( The Mortal Instruments, anyone?) and if you want to look back to its origin look no further than to Flowers in the Attic.  I will give this to Andrews though, you sort of understand why the siblings here would have a crush on each other because they were locked in an attic for several years without contact with the outside.  Alright….I still don’t get it.  But it makes more sense from a psychological perspective than Clary and Jace wanting to bone each other or Sebastian wanting to bone Clary.

And you can still catch this little gem occasionally on Showtime (like at three in the morning, but still).

Judy Blume probably was one of the most influential writers in the genre.  And even though a lot of these books are twenty plus years old their still relevant.  Blume was probably one of the first YA authors to talk about mature issues without having a character becoming dying/becoming pregnant.  All of her heroines sounded like real teens.  They weren’t preachy at all and not all of them were filled with romance.  Which is a nice change of pace, considering that almost all the YA books today feature romance (which I like, but let’s face it, is a little unrealistic).  These books though, I really think they identified with the younger me which is nice because a lot of early and for that matter present YA books always sound like either a thirty or ten year-old stuck in a teen’s body.

To be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of The Babysitters Club series, but it represents what the 1980’s and early 1990’s were best at in YA serialized ghost written stories.  From Nancy Drew to Sweet Valley High there were a ton of these never ending series sort of books.  The Babysitters Club even got it’s own movie, so did Nancy Drew too but not the 1980’s-1990’s version of Nancy that followed in this format.  What is the format exactly?  Well, the character is described in vivid detail (so is their best friends/significant other), we’re given a rehash of what has happened until now, some irrelevant problem happens, and it’s resolved with a shopping spree/kissing at the beach scene.  Generic: yes.  But they made a ton of $ and I think if anything these books showed publishers what potential there was in selling fluff to teenage girls.

Another thing you had to love about the 1980’s/1990’s was the book covers of the period.  I remember choosing this particular book from my sister’s bookshelf because of the cover.  The strange thing is I don’t remember much about said book only that involved a girl who was given a genie and it had light blue hair (basically, what you see from the cover).  Either way, I really should do a retro version of Judge a Book by It’s Cover it could be really fun.

Probably the best book ever.  This was actually my introduction to post 2000 YA.    You could really say it’s the introduction to modern YA. Or at least the modern popularity of YA.  Sure, there were other YA books before it and after it, but there was something about diaries that was so fresh.   Perhaps, it’s the fact that when you read these books you really don’t learn something and they’re so outlandish that they’re fantastic.  Or maybe it’s just all those lists devoted to hot guys and bad Lifetime movies.

I almost put this one on the present rather than the past list, but since the series is complete and has been complete for over four years and the movie version finished up last month, it’s going on the past list.  Let’s face it, love it or hate it The Twilight Saga has impacted YA big time.  And yeah, most of the impact hasn’t been exactly positive, but some of the most popular books in the genre today have Twilight elements.  And yeah, I know if you’re all probably wondering why I put this one here instead of Harry Potter or Hunger Games.  Well, I always view Harry Potter more as a children’s novel than YA since that’s what the series first started as and The Hunger Games quite frankly isn’t YA Past yet (the series is complete, but there are still two more movies in the works)


2 thoughts on “A Christmas Carol Rip Off: The Ghost of YA’s Past

  1. I love your picks! but I'm with your on R & J, I never got the appeal!And I actually don't like Shakespeare all that much, I find him annoying to read. Like you have to Make An Effort to understand and that's just too distracting.And yeah, I love PD too!! it was like the beginning of a whole new brand of YA, I love Meg Cabot because of it.

  2. Yeah, not a huge fan of R&J at all. I don't buy into the whole general idea that it's a love story. I view it more of a social commentary on teenage recklessness and blood feuds but that's just me. I actually took a Shakespeare class (well, was forced to) for my degree. I like some of his work better than others. Probably my favorites are McBeth and The Taming of the Shrew. Yeah, I love PD mainly because it doesn't talk down to you. A lot of books before it did and that was just wrong.

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