Teen-Agers Are for Real by S. E. Hinton: An Article About Teenagers Written by a Teenager

In this post I will be discussing an article I found that was published in 1967 and written by The Outsiders author S. E. Hinton entitled, Teen-Agers Are for Real. At the time of writing this article, Hinton was just 19 years old, a year after the publication of The Outsiders. In this article, Hinton (1967) talks about the problems with YA literature that existed during this time, such as the fact that almost all stories are romanticized, unrealistic, “a-horse-and-the-girl-who-loved-it” types of writing. I think this article offers a unique perspective we have not yet seen this year in that the author of the article is actually a teenager herself, and therefore can provide firsthand accounts on claims made.

One claim Hinton makes is that YA books written during this time refused to portray the actual realities facing teens in the ‘60s, such as “the drive-in social jungle . . . the behind-the-scenes-politicking that goes on in big schools . . . the hair-raising accounts of gangs, motorcycle and otherwise . . .” (Hinton, 1967). Instead, authors chose to write about polite romances or wholesome stories where a lesson is learned by the protagonist and likewise, the reader. However, Hinton posits the same notion we have been exploring this entire semester, which is that the realities of young adults need to be represented in their literature in order for them to feel validated and seen. What is a teenager who is involved in gang violence to do with a story about “Mary Jane’s big date with the football hero”? (Hinton, 1967). Writing what adults wish to see in adolescent culture instead of what they actually see is a way to disenfranchise their community’s youth. Additionally, Hinton blames media sources like the newspaper for the way teenagers acted during this time. She compares teenagers reading about their own “experiences” from adult authors to the way a hypochondriac might read about a certain illness and then mysteriously develop symptoms. She says, “Well, you can’t pick up a magazine or a newspaper that doesn’t declare that teenagers are rebellious, over-worked, over-pampered, under-privileged, over-privileged, smart, stupid and sex-crazed. No wonder some develop the symptoms” (Hinton, 1967).

Although this article was written over 50 years ago, I think the main points Hinton makes still largely apply today. While we have definitely seen an increase in the diversity of subject matter among YA books, I think it is still safe to say that there are parents and adults out there who wish to see their children reading the very polite and happy books Hinton despises. This is evident in parents challenging certain books we have learned about even this semester, like The Hate U Give. For this reason, it seems that we have made considerable progress while also making almost no progress at all. Books are beginning to become more diverse and more accurately represent the experiences of young adults, but what are we to do with them if adults won’t allow them to be read? Shouldn’t teenagers get to decide what kind of literature validates their experiences instead of the adults who oversee them?


Hinton, S. E. (1967). Teen-Agers Are for Real. New York Times. Retrieved from https://readingyalitcom.files.wordpress.com/2016/09/teenagers-are-for-real-susan-hinton.pdf


2018 International Book Awards Book Suggestions for YA’s

In this post I will be discussing the books An Acquaintance by Saba Sayed and One-Two by Igor Eliseev, which became finalists in the Fiction: Young Adult Literature category and the Fiction: Multicultural category, respectively, of the 2018 International Book Awards (International Book Awards, 2018). The first book I want to discuss is An Acquaintance by Saba Sayed. This novel centers around a high school aged Muslim girl named Sarah, who has a close relationship with her father, brother, and her masjid. After a new white boy/soccer star comes to town, she finds herself falling for him after he defends her against some Islamophobic students. Now, Sarah must decide what means more to her–her religion or her relationship with the new boy. Perhaps it is somewhat regressive that Sarah cannot have both, but the book ultimately explores the importance of her religion among America’s Western ideals. Sarah has to deal with criticism and rumors from close friends and members of her masjid, even though the most her and the new boy do is hold hands. (The Ideal Muslim Man, 2018). This book demonstrates that discrimination can exist even within cultures, and displays how difficult it can be to stay true to one’s own culture while inhabiting another. I think this book could help young adults see the internal struggles of their marginalized classmates and give insight into the additional hardships they face solely based on where they are from.

The next book I want to discuss is One-Two by Igor Eliseev. This novel centers around conjoined twins Hope and Faith as they navigate their life in 1980s-1990s Russia. Abandoned by their parents at birth, the girls grew up in a foster home and became accustomed to the cruel ridicule and judgment that they come to expect of others now. However, when a chance at separation surgery makes itself known, the girls embark on a journey which causes them to weigh their internal conflicts with the societal burden that they face (Glagoslav Publications, 2018). Ultimately, this book explores what it means to be different in society while also providing cultural education ans insight as the book is set in Russia.

I think both of these books could become an essential part of a school curriculum as they demonstrate cultural competency and explore human interaction and nature, which is a pivotal subject for young adults to learn about.

Works Cited

Glagoslav Publications. (2018). One-Two Igor Eliseev. Retrieved from http://www.glagoslav.com/en/Book/173/One-Two.html

The Ideal Muslim Man. (2018, March 10). Book Review: An Acquaintence. [web log comment]. Retrieved from https://theidealmuslimman.com/2018/03/10/book-review-acquaintance/

International Book Awards. (2018). Full Results Listing by Category. Retrieved from http://www.internationalbookawards.com/2018awardannouncement.html

Eliseev, I. (2016). One-Two. London, UK: Glagoslav Publications.

Sayed, S. (2017). An Acquaintance. Daybreak Press.

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami is an action-packed novel which explores the depths of human nature and how far one will go to survive. The novel is set in the fictional “Republic of Greater East Asia,” which is run by a Big Brother-like authoritarian government. The story centers around the “Program,” which students in the novel learn about in school from a young age. The Program is a government run procedure in which, each year, 50 junior high classes consisting of 42 students each are chosen to fight to the death in a remote location selected by the government. When one does the math, this amounts to the senseless murder of over 2000 innocent children each year. Each parent is notified by the government that their child has been “chosen” for the Program, essentially informing the parent of their child’s death. Once taken to a remote location, each student is fitted with a metal collar which detonates if they are found in any of the declared “forbidden zones” of the island, which change every day. The collars of every student also explode if there fails to be a death within 24 hours—a cruel way to keep the “game” progressing. Each student is given a bag with bread, water, a map of the island, and a weapon. Some students get guns and hatchets, others get forks and throwing darts complete with a dart board. The true purpose of the Program is never revealed, however government officials convince students it is done to keep the youth population “in line” and prevent them from rebelling against their elders. The novel explores the absolute limits of the human nature and what happens within the human psyche when one is forced to the limit. The novel’s main character is Shuya, otherwise known as Male Student No. 15 (each student is referred to by their name and by their government assigned number. This allows the reader to form a personal connection with the characters while also being reminded of the way the government views them—as a number). The novel follows Shuya as the main protagonist as he and Female Student No. 15, Noriko, form an alliance with Male Student No. 5, Shogo.

The main theme throughout this book is distrust in the government and ruling bodies. Takami makes this point very clear with just the shear concept of the story—a government forcing its youth to battle to the death—but, there are additional more specific examples scattered throughout the novel. Near the end of the book, Shogo confronts Sakamochi, the leader of the Program, saying, “’You’re…insane,’ he said. ‘You’re out of your mind! How can you be like that?’ He was nearly sobbing. ‘A government is supposed to serve the needs of the people. We shouldn’t be slaves to our own system. If you think this country makes sense…then you’re insane!’” (Takami, pp. 597, 2003/1999). This statement by Shogo alone portrays Takami’s own feelings toward the government in general. Additionally, each government official is introduced and initially described in a negative way, subconsciously turning the reader against them before they even play a part in the story. For example, Sakamochi’s initial description goes as such; “He was stocky but well built. His legs were extremely short, as if they served as a mere appendage to his torso. He wore light-beige slacks, a gray jacket . . . and black loafers. They all looked worn out. . . His cheeks were rosy . . . He wore [his hair] down to his shoulders like a woman in her prime. It reminded Shuya of the grainy Xeroxed tape cover of a Joan Baez he’d bought on the black market” (Takami, pp. 36, 2003/1999). This description made Sakamochi resemble some sort of evil nesting doll in my mind, which I think was Takami’s goal. For the rest of the novel, whatever Sakamochi did or said was filtered by this distasteful image, regardless of whether or not what he was doing at the time was actually innately bad. I think this effect can be applied to other countries’ governments as well. For example, the rivalry between Democrats and Republicans is often driven by the distaste of one individual’s viewpoint, which then influences a person’s interpretation of an entire party. While this form of thinking is flawed, it is clear that it transcends country borders.

While Takami shows distaste in the Japanese government, there are clues that he shares the opposite sentiment towards the U.S. At one point in the novel, Shogo and Shuya discuss where they will escape to if they survive the Program. Shogo days to Shuya, “’You should be a rocker. You’re talented. From what I hear, in [the American Empire] the odds aren’t stacked so high against you even if you’re an immigrant or exile’” (Takami, pp. 553, 2003/1999). Whether or not this statement is still true today in our current political climate, it shows that other countries view us as a safe haven and bridge to a better life. For this reason, I think it is our duty to hold to true to this belief, so that we may grant others the life they deserved but did not receive in their home country.

One of the great things about reading global YA literature is that it allows readers some insight into how other cultures view us and our country. This is important because it enables us to take a look internally, and identify what we are possibly doing right and what we could be doing better in order to center these marginalized voices. This novel taught me that our country must learn to welcome and embrace others so that we may begin to achieve a better and more tolerant world.



Takami, H. (2003). Battle Royale. (Y. Oniki, Trans.) San Francisco, CA: VIZ Media. (Original work published 1999).