The development of the YA label during the 1960s coincided with the emergence of the adolescent “problem” novel which introduced readers to a variety of personal, social, and political problems (Nimon and Foster; Saxby). Although this direct confrontation with “serious” issues previously considered to be beyond the bounds of children’s fi ction was considered innovative at the time, today it is said to be a defi ning feature of the genre (Nimon and Foster 3). Indeed, there is now virtually nothing that is off-limits in contemporary YA fi ction (Owen 12). As this chapter illustrates, one of the characteristics of the genre is its willingness to engage with the traumatic and harsh aspects of life; readers can vicariously explore a plethora of topics including sexual abuse, incest, teenage pregnancy, homosexuality, violence, suicide, and terminal illness. The genre also tends to be dominated by realist discourses-to such an extent that it is often viewed as a body of work that tells “real” stories about “real” people. All of the narratives I discuss here therefore share
a commitment to veracity-to representing stories about life and death accurately and “truthfully”. They are also notable for their differing approaches to such subjects, however. Many depict death as a catalyst for growth. Some work to suggest that death is a punishment for transgression by subscribing to the notion of adolescence as a dangerous period of development, and by implying that there are severe consequences for teenage children (particularly girls) who operate outside socially prescribed boundaries. By framing mortality through themes of sexuality, still others can be seen to demonstrate how normative judgements work discursively to divide the “normal” from the “abnormal”. As a group, these narratives also provide an interesting cross-section of experiences of death, thus building a picture of the particular patterns, tensions, and themes that can be said to represent Western death culture in the contemporary era.