Social taboos (both in literature and in everyday discussion) include abuse, violence, religion, sex, and even diversity; however, these topics are still covered in considerable detail in most young adult novels. On the other hand, although self-harm, depression, and suicide are equally as sensitive topics as the aforementioned taboos, their discussion is both frowned upon and avoided. As a broad scope, there has been a sizable amount of novels published regarding teenage depression; however, they constitute an extremely small fraction of the popularity that young adult novels–with thematic elements involving romance and self-discovery–generally hold. Delving more specifically into dystopian young adult literature, this number is even smaller; in fact, over the approximately 600 (give or take) young adult dystopian novels published within the past few years, Google search results yield specific dystopian genres ranging from science fiction to romance, with a single dystopian novel discussing teen depression and suicide: The Program by Suzanne Young.
Generally speaking, and as observed in this course, dystopian novels gain popularity due to their ability to feed on actual, plausible fears rooting from modern day society. What makes dystopian literature especially unique and appealing, however, is its ability to appeal to readers through other popular teenage interests (e.g. The Hunger Games with romance, The Uglies with self acceptance, Matched with science fiction). One of the most pressing issues in modern society is the struggle with mental health; in fact, depression is the most common mental health disorder in the United States in teens and adults, and in 2014 alone, 2.8 million teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 had at least one major depressive episode. One major benefit of an increase in popular novels discussing depression is that it allows for teenagers to not only feel more comfortable with the validity of the problems they might be facing, but for the introduction of a possible solution. Additionally, a huge aspect of societal debate is the role that authority figures can play to help, and novels discussing this might allow for more exposure of and solutions to deeper-rooted problems and misconceptions in society. However, both of these raise questions: who determines what is relevant to teenagers? In what ways could thematic dystopian teenage depression novels backfire?
“Teen Depression Statistics & Facts.” Teen Help, 9 Feb. 2016, www.teenhelp.com/teen-depression/teen-depression-statistics/. Accessed 6 Mar. 2017.
“YA Books About/Mentioning Depression, Self-Harm And Suicide (201 books).” Goodreads, www.goodreads.com/list/show/13907.YA_Books_About_Mentioning_Depression_Self_Harm_And_Suicide. Accessed 6 Mar. 2017.