Coping with Violence, Crime, Alcohol, and Drug Abuse
Unfortunately, violence, crime, alcohol and drug use, and various other forms of abuse are an integral part of our society and, at least in the lives of many people, take precedence over civility. Too many young adults see or experience gang-related violence and death, and feel the resulting fear, anger, and grief. No longer restricted to inner cities, violence even reaches students in rural and suburban schools in places such as Littleton, Colorado, or Red Lake, Minnesota. While shielding or protecting young people from violence and abuse is ideal, it is also impossible. However, through literature, we can present novels that help young adults explore these issues. Sometimes the realistic novels offer hope, while at other times they provide a forum in which readers can explore options and alternatives.
Never one to shy away from violence, Robert Cormier, well-known for his classic novel The Chocolate War (1974), often examines the topic from a new perspective. His We All Fall Down (1991) looks at violence in a small town and includes trashing a house, attacking a 14-year-old girl, and seeking revenge. Cormier’s The Rag and Bone Shop (2001) explores the murder of a child and the attitude of authorities to do whatever is necessary to solve the crime, even if it means forcing a 12-year-old boy to confess.
Other authors also examine the issue of violence in our society. S. E. Hinton’s classic The Outsiders (1967) tells of three brothers who grow up in a world of violent street gangs. While Steve Harmon, in Walter Dean Myers’ Monster (1999), writes the story of his trial for murder in the form of a screenplay, Ryan Walker in Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s Walker’s Crossing (1999) must confront his own feelings when his older brother joins a militia group and violence erupts. Looking at violence in a school, Todd Strasser examines a school shooting in Give a Boy a Gun (2000).
Violence exists in families as well as in society in general. In Silent to the Bone (Konigsburg, 2000), Branwell Zamborska is accused by the family’s English au pair of dropping and shaking his baby sister until she stops breathing. A physically abusive father plays a major role in Gloria Velasquez’s Rina’s Family Secret (1998). Vince’s violent “family” in Gordon Korman’s Son of the Mob (2002) is a bit unconventional—his father is really a powerful Mafia boss.
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