Young-adult fiction has made an emergence over the past fifteen years. The adventure novel is an important genre and one that is quite prevalent in young adult literature and for this website-project I've decided to cover four titles that have received much critical acclaim and many awards. All of these novels were written for the intended audience of young adults of roughly the age range of 11-21. Although the four novels' main characters are young boys, the themes evident in the texts can relate to anyone of any age, race, creed and gender. The titles I chose are:
Will Hobbs' Far North
Will Hobbs' The Maze
Watt Key's Alabama Moon
Gary Paulsen's The Hatchet
I chose these novels because of the fame and accolades that have come since they were published, and because they were all similar in theme and nature. One of the main reasons, however, that I chose these four novels is because of their teachability. They are accessible to youth and expose young readers to environments they may not know about, but themes that may certainly affect them. Themes of loneliness, depression, isolation, self-pity, alienation, desperation, survival, corruption, friendship, family, self-realization, perseverance, divorce, death, anti-authority, escape, adult-mentor, and violence are all common in young adult adventure and survival stories. Throughout these four novels most of these themes are touched upon. Perhaps most importantly, though, is that all of these adventure/survival stories mask what the texts truly are: coming-of-age tales.
Adventure stories and coming-of-age tales are quite similar. In fact, all four of the novels I read and researched where coming-of-age tales. What's this mean? The characters somehow matured throughout the telling of their story in the novel. Some matured through a mentor, a rough situation, their setting, or because they had to overcome some type of great odd to survive. All of the main characters come out alive with their stories to tell and they are all so vastly, yet differently, relatable to many young adults and this is why they can make such an impact on the target audience.
Perhaps the most famous books to follow these traditions, or rather defined what these traditions molded into, are Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. The acclaim and popularity of the two novels has lead to several major motion pictures and millions of copies sold worldwide. They are still taught in many middle school classrooms today as they are some of the most iconic and epic tales of two young boys roughing it in nature on their own, and the trials and tribulations of their journey along the Mississippi River.
A major theme present in the novels: Racism. The book deals with stereotypes and racism head on in a time where civil rights to minorities and women were scant. The book was written in vernacular according to local color regionalism. Moral conflict is another major theme. Students today, and post-Civil War students up until today, could relate to this. Children are innocent and unless their minds are spoiled, do not see very much distinction towards others of different race or creed. However, Tom and Huck grew up in a society where lynchings and the thought that blacks were sub-human was commonplace. In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Tom meets Jim, a black man who is enslaved. Tom's inner conflict between what he was taught, that segregation is the right way to go and blacks were lesser people, toys with his inert belief that we are all equal. It is truly a great tale that, at times controversial, has a terrific anti-racism, and truly anti-ignorance, theme that children even today can relate to.
The novels I studied all would suit a curriculum that includes young adult literature and would also suit an independent reading library in a typical classroom.
They could be included in an American literature curriculum, as well as a high-school Reading classroom. They also would work well in any middle-school-grade Language Arts or Reading classrooms.
Throughout the site I will reflect on the novels and how I think they suit young adult readers. I also will discuss the elements and theories that reflect their teachability. I will also discuss the themes present in the texts and why these work so well with young adult readers.
There are many resources available to read more about these texts and many other young adult adventure novels.
The resource below is the 'best books for young adults' that have received many awards.
The following link is a list of adventure and survival stories of young adult literature.
And below is a list of young adult novels that are free to read online for both young adults and adults alike!