This is a blog about kids who fight stuff.
In my younger and more vulnerable years, I was an AmeriCorps member. At the time, it seemed like a logical thing to be. I was idealistic, liked the government, had a nebulous commitment to helping people, and didn’t want to leave the country to do so: ergo, AmeriCorps.
Because I didn’t have a job with an actual description, I had a lot of time on my hands. As a result, my coworkers and I spent hours proclaiming our Grand Unified Theories on various topics. This was the first place where I encountered the theory that YA literature was rotting American minds. In my co-worker’s opinion, the fact that grown-ass men and women were opting to read “The Hunger Games” and “Harry Potter” (these being the only two examples of YA lit that sprang to his mind) instead of the collected works of Sylvia Plath was proof that SOMETHING was rotten in the state-that-was-not-Denmark, was-not-nearly-cosmopolitan-as-Denmark.
In support of this theory, he cited the fact that he’d been forced to read “Tess of the d’Urbervilles” in high school, a book he couldn’t imagine modern-day teenagers (or modern-day adults, for that matter) had the patience to muddle through. I would’ve liked to tell him that he was: A) wrong; and B) a snob — but as it so happened, I hadn’t gone to a high school that assigned “Tess of the d’Urbervilles,” and mostly just felt bad about myself.
This bothered me. Stories about Kids Fighting Stuff had played a formative part in my life. Not only did I want to defend the genre; I wanted to mount a defense that would withstand any critiques from Sylvia Plath fans.
I don’t know if George Orwell is High-Brow enough to serve as a Rebuttal Cudgel. He was very transparently a man who was obligated to work his ass to the bone, and could never afford to be romantic when it came to writing. But he does have some thoughts on Charles Dickens that I think explain why so many adults want to read about Kids Fighting Stuff today.
In his essay about Dickens, Orwell dismantles the conception of Dickens as a “political writer.” After demonstrating how unconcerned Chucky D. actually was with the structures that allocated power & influence in Victorian England, he proceeds to speculate on why so many people think Dickens was a champion of the underdog. He points to the protagonist of so many of Dickens’ stories — The Sad Kid. For someone like Dickens — which is to say, someone who sympathized immensely with the poor and wanted something different for the poor without believing there was anything that could actually be done to improve a poor adult’s lot — Kids were natural figures to gravitate towards. Kids, unlike adults, actually have the capacity to change.
I would contend that the reason that so many adults like to read stories about Kids Fighting Stuff is because in an era when so many things about our society seem vague, impenetrable, and unassailable, we want to relate to kids. Kids can change. And because they can change, maybe they can change things. In this light, reading stories about Kids Fighting Stuff actually seems pretty noble.
In this blog, I will be writing about various Fighting Kids, and the lessons readers can learn from them. I hope you’ll stick around.