Back in March Huff Po Books published an article titled, “The Ten Most Annoying Teenagers From Books.” This piece erked me for several reasons (not the least of which is the title, which screams I-Have-Nothing-New-Or-Important-To-Say-So-I’m-Going-To-Make-An-Unimportant-List-To-Grab-Reader’s-Attentions-Since-That-Seems-To-Work-For-Cosmo).
First of all, this is one of the few corners of the internet where readers can get supposedly valuable information about books, AND where readership is beyond the double digits. Given the amazing platform, doesn’t it seem like a waste to publish (and publicize) an article that is not only uninteresting, but unproductive? Readers have either read the books listed and already have their own opinion, or haven’t read the books, in which case the article is totally unhelpful. Don’t get me wrong, I often find it interesting anduseful to read reviews about books I haven’t read yet — these reviews can often shed light not only on the book itself, but can also be illuminating in terms of craft and style in a way that is generalizable. However, where the author of this article had the chance to actually say something interesting about these central characters it instead complained about their personalities — which brings up an even bigger problem: since when do all characters have to be likeable, anyway? Was Humbert Humbert likeable? What about the Raskolnikov? Of course not.
The bigger problem with this article is the thesis of the article itself: These characters are annoying and let me tell you why. How is that new? We already disparage and dismiss teenagers. We already think they’re melodramatic and spoiled. Do we really need an article to argue that, in addition to the kid next door, the beloved Holden Caulfield is also annoying? What do we gain by trying to cut down one of the few books teenagers actually like to read? Moreover, the author seems to miss the point of the book The Catcher in the Rye, writing, “Whine, whine, whine. We feel so sorry for you that you’re rich and in expensive boarding school.” Actually, most readers do feel empathy for Holden, that’s why the book is so beloved.
This article is exactly the kind of dangerous, blithe writing that keeps authors from writing about teenagers, and keeps society from taking them seriously.
Read the article for yourself and let me know what you think: http://huff.to/1gBHpmU