Michael Cart’s latest work chronicles the development of young adult literature from its recognition in the 1960s to its present boom in the 21st century. Expanding upon his 1996 edition, Cart includes new discussions about poetry, nonfiction, graphic novels, audiobooks and the role of young adult literature in a multimedia age. Cart showcases various breakthrough texts and awards in the category revealing his role as an expert in and contributor to young adult literature.
In “That Was Then,” the first of two sections, Cart and investigates how cultural shifts influenced YA lit in the 1960s-1990s. Realism emerged in issue-oriented/problem novels like Robert Cormer’s The Chocolate War. But many were plagued by formulaic plots and imitation in the late 70s. Cart perceives “the problem novel is to YA what soap operas are to good dramas” (32). Eventually, readers rejected the problem novel and to some extent realistic fiction.
Providing escape, romance dominated most of the 80s and one can sense Cart’s dismay as problem novel sales plummeted in the early 90s. Cart blames sensational TV (like Jerry Springer) for reality’s unpopular status in literature. In part two, “This Is Now,” Cart explores the rise of new genres and formats in the 21st century. He delves into the Harry Potter phenomenon and consequent appeal of crossover novels.
Clearly Cart prefers darker, edgier literary titles, which he believes reflect reality. Whether this is true or not, his zeal for young adult literature is impossible to escape. Pointing out YA lit awards, such as the Printz Award which he helped create, Cart continuously reveals how libraries help shape and are shaped by young adult literature. Cart leaves the reader pondering creative formats which champion realism such as nonfiction graphic novels and photoessays. The text provides a comprehensive history of young adult literature and is an insightful and often humorous text. It is likely to interest MLIS students, current practitioners interested in improving readers’ advisory skills to young adults or those doing literary studies. If you’re looking to understand how YA literature is created today there’s no better way than to study its history in From Romance to Realism.
Publisher: ALA, 2020 Pages: 242
Rating: 4.5 Stars Source: U of Iowa Libraries