The realistic angle we saw begun in the '60s only grew in the '70s – the darker, the grittier, the edgier, the better. S.E. Hinton may have started it off, but The Outsiders was soon surpassed in terms of 'edgy' material by the likes of The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier (1974) and Go Ask Alice by Anonymous (1971). The Chocolate War portrayed the consequences of a vicious high school mob mentality, and Go Ask Alice was a hard-hitting look at a teenager's addiction to drugs.
Two 1970s paperback covers of Go Ask Alice. These are radically different in the vibe they give out, the first one very clearly getting at the drug aspect, and the second being somewhat more accessible to teens, with a shadowy face that hints at a dark tone and subject matter.
The first YA book to specifically address addiction to heroin was A Hero Ain't Nothing But a Sandwich by Alice Childress (1973). And while his books may not have been quite as radical, Paul Zindel wrote several more "problem novels" during the '70s, such as I Never Loved Your Mind (1970), Pardon Me, You're Stepping on My Eyeball (1976), Confessions of a Teenage Baboon (1977) and The Undertaker's Gone Bananas (1978). The original covers of these books were so weird that I have decided to include them all (admittedly, I have not read any of these, so perhaps the covers do make sense and I just don't know it):
Two versions of the 1976 hardcover (I believe the one on the left is the US and the one on the right is the UK version). Okay, I like the flowy feel of the drawing in the 1st one, and the raccoon is cute, but that font? Oh, how it hurts my eyes. Someone didn't know how to color coordinate. And the 2nd one...I don't even know where to start. Is that supposed to be blue HAIR? Has someone stepped on his eyeballs and that's why we can't see them anymore?
|When I first saw this cover I thought the guy had a coat hanger for a head.|
Interestingly, alongside some of the more serious books, humorous YA reads were also starting to rise in popularity. Paula Danziger published The Cat Ate My Gymsuit in 1975 and Can You Sue Your Parents for Malpractice? in 1979. And for boys, Gordon Korman started off his wonderfully funny Macdonald Hall series with This Can't Be Happening At Macdonald Hall! (1978).
|Okay, Gordon Korman's writing is hilarious, but this cover image is just sad.|
|Anastasia Krupnik, looking oh SO scandalous.|
There was also a sprinkling of other YA novels featuring people of colour. Dragonwings by Laurence Yep (1975; 1976 Newbery Honor) depicted the life of a young Chinese boy after immigrating to America. Scott O'Dell's novel Sing Down the Moon (1970; 1971 Newbery Honor) told the story of a Navajo girl taken by Spanish slavers. Anpao: An American Indian Odyssey by Jamake Highwater (1977; 1978 Newbery Honor) is based on Native American legends. Paula Fox's book The Slave Dancer (1973) won the 1974 Newbery Medal for its tale, based on a historical event, of a boy forced to play music that slaves had to "dance" to on a slave ship. And Jean Craighead George's book Julie of the Wolves, an educational novel about both Arctic wolves and Inuit culture, was published in 1972 and won the 1973 Newbery Medal.
|I'm sorry, but I really doubt they got many teens picking this book up with a cover like that.|
|Or, frankly, with this one either.|
|Finally, a 1970s cover that actually does some things right! I quite like the simplistic but elegant design of this one.|
|Gotta love the pigtails. Also, why put the exact same image on the front and back? Unless she's checking every single window.|
Of these books, I've read the most from the "edgy books about girls growing up" and "humor books" categories. I loved Paula Danziger, Judy Blume, Lois Lowry and Gordon Korman when I was younger. I haven't read any of the Zindel books mentioned, but I am tempted to because those titles are just so fantastic. And some of these – The Chocolate War, Go Ask Alice, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and The Slave Dancer – are such YA classics I should probably give them a shot... I don't think I'll be trying the thrillers anytime soon though!
What about you guys? Have you read all/most of these? None of these? Do you like the "realism" trend of this decade?