Popular Young Adult Literature, Revised for Today’s Reader
by Gabrielle Moss
If there is one idea that we can all agree on, it is that all popular literature needs to be re-written once every 25 years or so, so that nobody gets confused by a book’s weird, outdated references to “sanitary napkin belts” or “Spiro T. Agnew.”
This goes doubly so for young adult literature, where older books do actually get updated on the regular. They did it a little bit to Are You There, God?, It’s Me, Margaret? a few years ago, switching out the heroine’s old-timey menstrual products for maxi pads; and they did it a lot to the Sweet Valley High novels, many of which were re-written in 2008 and scrubbed of all mentions of Capezio shoes, burger restaurants, and other Reaganite concerns. The revised versions substitute pining over Roberto Cavalli gowns for pining over mauve ruffled blouses, and replace old-fashioned phrases with the kind of talk that might be more familiar to the modern reader, such as “this sucks” and “you suck.” It allows the reader to truly take in the Wakefield twins on a deeper level, without being distracted by how none of the characters have cell phones.
But I say: why stop there? How many classic pieces of young adult literature will be left in the dustbin of history because they refuse to change with the times? I offer the following rough outlines for your consideration; once we agree on all of these revisions, we can get to work doing something about all those references to diaphragms in Danielle Steel books.
Little House on the Prairie: To avoid alienating audiences, we’re going switch the book’s focus so that it now centers more on the hopes and dreams of a little girl surviving the harsh American frontier, 150 years before the invention of Mountain Dew. She thrives — mostly through her unwavering faith that someday, somehow, someone will eventually invent Mountain Dew.
The Phantom Tollbooth: Work in something about texting and driving — something about how it’s never okay to do, not even for a second, not even when you’re in a parallel universe that’s structured around puns.
My Friend Flicka: Modern audiences might be less familiar with the ins and outs of farm animals and ranches than readers of the past. To keep in touch with these more current sensibilities, Flicka the horse has been changed to Vice President Joe Biden; the boy who befriends her is now a pair of jeggings; and the ranch where they live has been replaced with a rainbow party.
Gossip Girl: Wealth and status are evergreen topics, so we can leave that part in, along with the beautiful teenaged girls battling for power and crying and becoming sexually active and stuff. But we have to stay on top of the ultra-luxe setting, so the revised edition is all on that space shuttle to the moon that Virgin Atlantic is supposed to start running, the one that Lance Bass bought tickets for, remember?
Bridge to Terabithia: Do readers today know what “creeks” are? Do they want to learn an important but painful lesson about the fragility of innocence and the brutal end of childhood? We don’t know, and frankly, we hope to never find out. Instead, in this lively update, everyone finds out that Leslie didn’t drown, and was just at the mall the whole time with her cell phone off. Everyone hugs, and laughs, and learns an important lesson about never turning your cell phone off. Also, something about texting and driving.
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler: Straighten out these fucking files! What, is this all a big joke to you? Jesus Christ, millennials at the workplace.
The Westing Game: For the ease of readers who might not be familiar with the outdated puzzle-game structure of the original book, the apartment complex which serves as the novel’s primary setting has been modernized into a rural British boarding school; also, all the characters have been updated into witches and wizards, and the book’s title has been upgraded to “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: To eliminate confusion relating to the series’ bewildering multi-volume set-up, all text has been erased and replaced with a GIF of a dog who does not understand that he has pantyhose stuck on his head.
You can follow Gabrielle on Twitter @gaby_moss.
Previously: “Family-Style Restaurants That Appear Only In Dreams”