A companion volume of sorts to his What's So Funny? Wit and Humor in American Children's Literature, this new work from Cart chronicles the evolution of the young-adult novel from its first appearance as a recognized category of literature in the 1960s to its somewhat tenuous role in the 1990s. Despite arguments questioning the necessity of works written specifically for a YA readership, Cart supports this art form with examples of successes and failures, and a wealth of comment from popular authors in the field. He handily dismisses book series in the romance and horror genres and critiques what he considers shortcomings of such "reality" based classics as The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton and The Pigman by Paul Zindel. On the flip side, Cart positively gushes about his favorite writers, notably Bruce Brooks, Robert Cormier and Francesca Lia Block, each of whom he credits with masterfully presenting complex and intelligent books for a YA audience. And it is in that gritty, often bleak world-millions of miles from the pat problem novels of the 1970s-that Cart feels the future of the YA novel lies. Publishing professionals, as well as writers and students, will glean a balanced examination of such issues as homosexuality, mental illness, AIDS and drug abuse, and how they are addressed in YA books. (Apr.)
(It is "Booklist" policy that a book written by a regular columnist be given a brief descriptive announcement rather than a full review. Cart traces the history of the YA novel beyond formulaic, problem-driven therapy and argues for realistic, complex fiction that dares to tackle serious subjects without sensationalism.