Politics and Young Adult Novels

Is it wrong that I keep getting annoyed at the way politics is skimmed over in young adult novels?

I know young adult novels are supposed to be about more personal topics, and that political stuff is often just trappings, but some novels do in fact tackle politics very well. Is this an acceptable area to blur in young adult books, or is it cheating? Spoilers ahead!

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In “The Thief” by Megan Whalen, Turner, the only living heir to the throne of a country is sent on a potential suicide mission into enemy territory, to secure a prize which will, ultimately, lead to a new heir being born. But in the meantime, he’s the only heir–so what the hell was anyone thinking sending him on a mission that insanely dangerous?

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In “Tehanu,” a king has at long last come to unite Earthsea. And he basically just goes and unites the country. Pretty much everyone is happy to have him, and only evil people oppose him–and only a little. There hasn’t been a king for centuries, but apparently there’s been a king-shaped hole that the new kid can just walk into.

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Finally, one of the things that ticked me off the most about the ending of “The Hunger Games” books was that they casually held an election in the background of Katniss’s grief. It’s like one sentence. A country with no history of representation was apparently able to hold an election in no time flat. This is actually worse than just skimming over politics–it actually exonerates the heroine’s murder of the leader of the revolutionaries, since in real life this murder would be far more likely to plunge the country back into chaos, leaving Katniss responsible.

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3 thoughts on “Politics and Young Adult Novels

  1. In his Sally Lockhart series Philip Pullman manages quite nicely to present politics to YA readers. It’s clearly more down to the author’s abilities than necessarily what publishers demand of them to remain competitive in the YA market. I find Le Guin incredibly over-rated, but then she did manage to introduce YA readers to the concept of non-white protagonists/heroes and has to be applauded for that.

    • I’ll have to add Sally Lockhart to my list! Glad to hear there are other people who find LeGuin overrated–a few of her books are fantastic, but mostly they’re just pretty transparent allegories, and I find those duller than paint.

      • I agree, I read the first of the Earthsea books and really struggled to get through it, just so dull and full of repetition of Ged darting here and there in a little boat. I’m sure her success was purely down to timing: she wrote the first book when Equal Rights and Race issues were being discussed all over the world, and she was brave enough to tackle such a thorny issue with a fantasy story. But apart from that….yawn.

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