Richard Peck

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If we "YA" authors hang on and hang in, one of these days we'll find ourselves writing for the Second Generation—for the offspring of parents who grew up reading Judy Blume and Paul Zindel and S. E. Hinton. (p. 440)

The themes that last will surely be rephrased in future volumes. I can only assume that the enduring ones will have nothing to do with the sexual revolution, the drug culture, and racial politics. The young now and in the future are not going to be able to solve these problems. It's a sickness from the '60s that we ever expected them to. They're going to continue to draw back from such problems in search of smaller, safer worlds. Possibly the writers' challenge will be to write adventurous books on "safe" subjects.

Books that explore friendship, which is a more potent preoccupation than sex to the young, and easier to contemplate. Books that continue to examine the family structure rather than celebrating collectivist alternatives. Books set in suburbs that still purvey a liberating hint of larger, more stimulating worlds.

A second generation of such books might do well to include a dimension now missing. We might continue plumbing the coming-of-age theme and then follow our young characters into adult life. That way we could depict not only actions, but their ultimate consequences. And I'm not talking about cautionary tales that warn young unwed mothers and fathers that they've blighted their entire lives. Such a message might not even be true.

But it would be pleasantly expansive to indicate to the young that all of life need not be as cruelly conformist and conservative as adolescence—unless you want it to be. That the most truly successful men and women were not high-school hotshots, beauty queens, super jocks, or manipulative gang leaders.

But maybe that's expecting too much. I imagine that the most acceptable new titles of the 1990s will be books about the sorrows of friendship and the painful necessity of growing up in a world new to no one but yourself. Books that include a little cautious nudge of optimism to offset what is blaring from a TV without an off knob. Books that invite the young to think for themselves instead of for each other. (p. 441)

Richard Peck, "The People behind the Books: Richard Peck," in Literature for Today's Young Adults by Kenneth L. Donelson and Alleen Pace Nilsen (copyright © 1980 Scott, Foresman and Company; reprinted by permission), Scott, Foresman, 1980, pp. 440-41.

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