Friday, July 9, 2010

YA Addendum

For two entire years now, a teenager named Colton Harris-Moore has been running around the Northwest, robbing things and eluding capture by law enforcement, including the FBI. When I say "robbing things," I don't mean convenience stores (although he has done that, too). This kid has stolen at least three planes and two large boats. He has survived partly in the woods and partly by raiding deserted summer cottages. Currently he has left the Northwest and has been spotted in the Bahamas.

Harris-Moore is 19 years old. When he escaped from a halfway house and began running, he was 17.

What does all this have to do with YA novels? Sometimes I think that YA protagonists (including my own in the fantasy I'm writing) accomplish more than a teen could. More outwitting of adults, more successful escapes from capture, more self-discipline and ingenuity and resourcefulness. Then I read about Harris-Moore and realize that no, these protagonists are not unrealistic. What is unrealistic are the low expectations we have for teens, treating them like six-year-olds ("Teacher, may I go to the bathroom?") until we suddenly allow them into the army, put a M-16 in their hands, and send them to Iraq.

For much of history, a 17-year-old was an adult, or so close as to make little difference. Perhaps YA fantasy and SF reminds kids of that. Perhaps we need that reminding. I certainly do not condone Harris-Moore's antics -- someone owned that $384,000 plane he flew and crashed. But he is a powerful argument that teenagers may possess more ability and resourcefulness than we give them credit for.

9 comments:

ClothDragon said...

I read a blog called Free Range Kids (http://freerangekids.wordpress.com) that often argues those very points.

TheOFloinn said...

Heck, for most of history, a *14* year old boy and a 12 year old girl could get married, own property, vote in manorial elections, and so on. Beatrice of Burgundy was thirteen when she wed the 40-year old Kaiser Barbarossa.

As one blogger put it: the hormone-crazed teenager is coeval with suburbia. Renaissance teens were working dogs; modern teens are neurotic lapdogs. Their craziness is the craziness of the idle everywhere.

佳皓佳皓 said...

Pay somebody back in his own coin.............................................................

bluesman miike Lindner said...

I've read a couple of articles about this guy. (One appeared in the NY POST yesterday.)

He seems very able indeed. He also seems to be a born criminal. (Yes, there are such.) Run-ins with the cops before he was =13= ?!?!?

If only he'd used his powers etc., etc.

bluesman miike Lindner said...

I should add, both articles suggested this galoot has become a folk-hero in the Northwest.

How many bored, aimless (thank you, TheOfloinn) young guys are plotting similar nonsense right now?

It ain't good. It ain't good at all.

qiihoskeh said...

Aren't most people born criminals who nevertheless learn better?

bluesman miike Lindner said...

I guess so. If you've ever been a "big brother", charged with taking care of a little guy...

慧娟 said...

far from eye, far from heart...................................................

S.M.D. said...

Oh, absolutely. I run a website for young writers, which is dominated by folks in that 13-17 range. One thing I've learned is that they are complex and adept at many of things they do. Not all of them are, obviously (just as not all adults are very good at this thing we call "life), but soe many of them, particularly the writerly type, have a grasp of the world that adults seem to think they don't have. I think it's part of why I find YA so hard to write, because I don't feel like there's any difference between YA and adult literature, or that there shouldn't be, simply because the differences between teens and adults is superficial (it's more a cultural difference--i.e. different generations, different interests).

But, anywho.