Recently, I've noticed that some publishers are branching out, trying to offer readers more "edgy" books. I find it a bit hard to describe them, actually. The dictionary tells us that edgy describes something that is on the cutting edge, or daringly innovative. Some books in YA that are considered edgy because of their content are 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher and Willow by Julia Hoban. Those are books that I can see where the adjective is appropriate. Those edgy books are excellent; they deal with emotions and tough events and occurences in life (suicide, death, grief, cutting). They have sold well (13 Reasons Why is a NYT Bestseller, and Willow is in its third printing just under two months after its release), and are popular among teens for the messages they carry and their unflinching look at such terrible events.
Yesterday, I read a book that someone described as "edgy", but frankly I think that the word "horrifying" is more fitting. I feel absolutely terrible saying this because the last thing I want to do is disparage a book that a writer spent a considerable amount of time on and cares for. But that book was Jenny Green's Killer Junior Year. As I read it and even after I finished it, I failed to understand why on earth the publisher would think it was a "deliciously dark comedy". There was absolutely nothing funny about it.
For those of you wondering what made me so angry about the book, here's why (and if you are anti-spoiler, read no further): Jenny Green is a spoiled, rich brat from Long Island. She has a horrid sophomore year (a clasmate embarrassed her on Facebook and Myspace, and another girl stole her prom date), so she convinces her father to send her to a boarding school in Canada. There, she reconnects with an old crush, dates a drug dealer (but it's okay, because he has an Audi, takes her to expensive restaurants, and buys her designer clothes), encounters a guy who slips the aforementioned prom-date-stealing girl roofies, is stalked by a school shooter, and is hit on by an old professor, and kills them all. The book isn't graphic, but it does describe her feelings of guilt, although Jenny is always insistent that she isn't a bad person. In the end, the cops are on to her, but she gets away with it all by framing another girl (who, coincidently, also stole Jenny's Prince Charming).
And that is it.
Now, the books does have a few merits (which I'll detail later in my review), but when I finished Jenny Green's Killer Junior Year, the first thing running through my mind was, "Oh my word, why?" I know I'm getting on my soapbox here, but seriously. What kind of message are you sending teens, Amy Belasen and Jacob Osborn? I honestly didn't see any humor in this. I just saw a spoiled brat who was way too smart for her own good, and didn't ever really pay for her actions beyond feelings of guilt and moments when she almost turned herself in (emphasis on almost). This novel could have been chilling if it were written in a much more serious tone, but instead I find it horrifying that the authors make light of Jenny's habit of killing men who cross her. I don't think murder is funny in the least.
Maybe what it boils down to is taste, and I am overracting, but novels like Jenny Green's Killer Junior Year really worry me. I don't doubt teens' intelligence, but these types of books slowly taking over shelves can have a negative impact on younger readers. I can't find a book edgy if those troubling and serious aspects of life aren't accompanied by some sort of message or lesson, or emotions that make readers learn something, or realize (or are reminded of) something significant about life, human nature, or tragic situations. In short, there needs to be something in there that makes the book worth reading. In JGKJY, there was none of that--just a shallow protaganist and the distinct feeling that the authors were saying, "Look, kids! See how easy it is to kill someone if they wrong you! Isn't this funny?"
Next time you are looking for an edgy novel, check out Willow, 13 Reasons Why, I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Keuhnert or even Wake by Lisa McMann and Amy Efaw's upcoming novel After. Jenny Green's Killer Junior Year is just not worth it.
Thoughts? Reactions? Am I being too judgmental? What are your opinions?