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Classic novels with themes of alienation are revered by today's teenagers (especially boys)

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(Read caption) 'The Catcher in the Rye' and 'Brave New World' are two novels that many teenagers turn to.

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Is there a teenage canon? A class of books teenagers typically turn to as a rite of passage, a form of identity, an expression of belonging – or not belonging?

Not only is the teenage canon alive and well, there appear to be multiple teenage canons: An angst canon especially for young men, a social canon especially for young women, a classic canon that spans the generations, and a modern one for today’s youth. 

That’s according to a new article by the BBC examining the angst canon, a collection of “disaffected literature for disaffected teenagers.”

“At the age of 17 and 18, readers are often searching for something with a bit of existential angst. And nothing taps into teenage angst quite like the idea of exceptionalism,” writes the BBC. “The books in 'the canon' can provide a feeling of uniqueness – a clandestine understanding of the world that nobody else quite gets.” 

The irony, of course, is that everybody else is undergoing the same experience and reading the same literature, books like Albert Camus’s “The Stranger,” J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye,” George Orwell’s “1984,” Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World,” and Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22.”

Because they command such respect in the adolescent crowd, these are the books no teenager would read only as an e-book, or surreptitiously stuff into a backpack. No, these are the books youngsters tote as a badge of honor, what one might read in a coffee shop, on the subway, even “wear.”

That’s right, “the book itself might be placed conspicuously on show, with the titles poking out of school blazer pockets and tops of satchels,” writes the BBC, with one commenter calling such works “accessory books” and “statement reading.”


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