Formally, young adult novels are generally categorized as novels written toward a target age group of 12 to 18 years; however, in the past decade, loads of novels have been written under the “young adult” novel genre gathering an audience from the range of 15 to 25 years of age. When looking specifically at young adult dystopian novels, the same trend can be observed, with novels like The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Divergent by Veronica Roth gathering a massive fanbase from an older age group. In order to do this, young adult dystopian novels seem to have sub-genres of recurring themes–romance, sci-fi, post-apocalyptic–that appeal more specifically to modern-day interests of young adults. The idea is to find a present-day fascination or issue facing the millennial generation, and building around it as a common theme throughout the book to make it more engaging and ‘relatable’ to the reader; however, more sensitive subjects are not necessarily always discussed in novels.
One of the biggest issues facing the current generation of young adults is depression, a common cause of suicide. In fact, in the
United States in 2015 alone, the suicide rate among 15 to 24 year olds was 12.5%, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. The sensitivity toward the topic and the social blacklist surrounding its connotations has made it a topic difficult to discuss, despite the importance of understanding it and the ways to combat it. As a result, despite parenting books and psychological journals, there is a lack of written works about teen depression; however, Suzanne Young manages to expose the dangers of teen depression and our societal neglect of its importance in an interesting way. Published in 2013, The Program follows the life of Sloane Barstow, a teenager living in a dystopian, suicide-ridden society. Essentially, in this society, students are closely monitored for depression; once any signs of it are detected, they are flagged down and sent to “The Program,” where their memories are erased and the person is returned to their family without a trace of the memories that triggered the depression. However, as seen in the book, this program backfires; not only do students lose a part of who they are, but they are so terrified by the thought of The Program that they hide their sadness even further to avoid being sent off. Not only does this shed a light on the dangers of repressing depression, but it exposes the other factors that make younger people susceptible to suicide, including the lack of understanding from adults. Additionally, Young integrates other thematic elements more characteristic of young adult dystopias, including romance, which makes the novel even more appealing to her targeted audience. Overall, although a sensitive topic, teen depression and suicide is a huge and recurring issue of everyday life–so why isn’t it a recurring theme in young adult literature?
Young, Suzanne. The Program. New York, Simon Pulse, 2014.
Me, About. “The Program by Suzanne Young.” The Program by Suzanne Young, 18 Jul. 2o13, librisnotes.blogspot.com/2013/07/the-program-by-suzanne-young.html. Accessed 20 Feb. 2017.
“Suicide Statistics .” American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/. Accessed 20 Feb. 2017.