We are surely in the boom era of the Young Adult novel. Never before have they proliferated to such a degree nor, indeed, was it long ago that they were not even recognized as a genre. Despite this, a few titles have lasted through the years as stalwart classics. One such book is Freaky Friday, Mary Rodger's 1972 story of a thirteen-year-old girl who spends one very enlightening day in her mother's body.
Having just reread it myself, I am struck not only by how sharp, insightful and caustically funny it is for such a lightning fast read (one hundred and forty five lickety-split pages), but also by the ways it pointedly does not resemble contemporary young adult fare.
Young adult novels today are considerably more sophisticated in narrative terms and to the emotional extremes they often paint to meet the perhaps more sophisticated expectations and narrative savvy of today's readership. Freaky Friday, however, is far less precious, perhaps as an indication of how children and teenagers were seen and treated. Though it is ostensibly a comedy, Freaky Friday is far more raw and political than any contemporary fare I've read in the last ten years. Most fascinating of all is how this raw sensibility is not the point of the story nor particularly calcualted in any way. It is, as evidenced by much of the entertainment of the same era (movies in particular), simply the vernacular of the times.
I would be interested to find out how Freaky Friday (or, while we're at it, another one of my favorites from this era, House of Stairs by Sleator ) could still shock and surprise readers of the more "hard-edged" likes of Hunger Games and Twilight.
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