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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | Back to the Classics

Back to the Classics

I know most (if not all) of you have read the article in The Wall Street Journal highlighting the dark and disturbing nature of today’s YA literature. It’s time to consider: Maybe they’re right. Maybe YA authors are poisoning young minds with a tasteless exploration of the darker side of human nature. Maybe it’s time we returned to the classics for a brighter outlook on life.

Here’s a list of some of the heart-warming classics I was assigned to read when I was in high school:

The Outsiders: Two rival teenage gangs violently clash with each other and with the police.

Moby Dick: A megalomaniac self-destructs while trying to kill a white whale that may or may not symbolize God.

Heart of Darkness: An exploration of the darkness of the wilderness, the cruelty of slavery, and the inherent ability for evil in every human being.

Huckleberry Finn: An abused boy and an escaped slave wander the country homeless and fall in with thieves and con men.

The Picture of Dorian Gray: A young man pursues a life of pleasure through all manner of vice and sin, including murder, while his portrait reflects the evil in his soul.

Romeo and Juliet: Two teenage lovers impulsively commit suicide when rivalry between their families separates them.

The Scarlet Letter: A town ostracizes a woman with an illegitimate child, while the minister secretly engages in self-mutilization as an expression of guilt for his affair with the woman.

Fall of the House of Usher: A disturbed man deliberately buries his sister alive, bringing ruin to himself and his household.

The Tell-Tale Heart: A paranoid schizophrenic kills his landlord, chops up the body, and buries it beneath the floorboards.

What books can you add to this list of fine upstanding classics which are (obviously) better for today’s youth than modern, trashy YA literature? Please feel free to share your titles in the comments!

13 Responses to Back to the Classics

  1. Sarah says:

    Lord of the Flies is the first one I thought of. I’m not sure I’ve read many books more brutal than that one.

  2. Animal Farm- basically hitler’s rise told through farm animal characters

  3. Does anyone remember the title and author of the short story where two longtime enemies end up trapped beneath a fallen tree, reconcile their differemces, and then get eaten alive by wolves? I was thinking about that one this morning …

  4. Linda G. says:

    Thanks for the list! I was looking for some light & fun summer reading. 😉

  5. KrysteyBelle says:

    Farenheit 451. A man gets hunted down for attempting to save books. When they can’t find him, they kill a man resembling him on live tv just to say they caught the criminal.

  6. mshatch says:

    Lord of the Flies is definitely a good one to add to the list of books teens should read rather than, say, The Marbury Lens.

    great post Dianne 😉

  7. This is the best post I’ve read in response to the article. Point well taken. 😀

  8. Marva Dasef says:

    Catcher in the Rye comes to mind. I’m not sure if it was an assigned book or not.

    How can you remember?

  9. Definitely “Lord of the Flies.” (I’m gonna leave out the rest of the quotation marks, because it’s a pin in the butt.) Also, The Crucible, The Scarlet Letter, Johnny, Get Your Gun, and All’s Quiet on the Western Front.

  10. Lin-z says:

    Hi this is Lindz. I know that this coment doesnt have anything to do with the post, but could you give me a refreshment on pinpoint? You can just leave it on my blog:D Thanks!

  11. Lin-z says:

    Do I have permission to blog Strange truths?

  12. Brooke says:

    “Of Mice and Men” where best buds George and Lennie have darling adventures and the ending is totally not tragic and horrible.

  13. I would add Grapes of wrath. Final scene where her baby has died from starvation so she breastfeeds the man who is also starving? There’s an image that stays with you.

    Also, To Kill a Mocking Bird, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Bless the Beasts and the Children, 1984 and Brave New World.