Finished another book yesterday! It was Z for Zachariah, which belongs to the fiction subgenre I think of as "post-apocalyptic young adult." In fact, yesterday I was reading it on the metro when I ran into E.Sto. He said, I loved that book! It was my post-apocalyptic phase!
A teenage girl is left behind in a valley that escapes nuclear destruction because of some inversion effect or something. Everything outside the valley is dead, including her family and the neighbors - they survived with her but went off to look for other people, and never came back. A guy appears with a radioactivity-proof safe suit, he gets sick, he recovers, things get ugly. It's not great. The story is told clunkily through her diary entries.
So what is it about post-apocalyptic young adult fiction? I loved this stuff. E.Sto remembered one where the adults had all been killed off in the nuclear war and there were good kids and a gang of bad kids who kept attacking them. An after-school special showed a future where the sun never comes out, then it comes out one day but this one girl misses it because her mean schoolmates locked her up, then they all feel bad. (Clearly, this stuck with me.) One of my favorite books circa 6th grade was The White Mountains, about the world after aliens descend and control our minds and, yknow, ruin everything.
It's pretty standard in children's literature to take away the parents. The kids in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe were sent to the countryside to escape the Blitz, and in Over Sea, Under Stone, someone sends the kids to their uncle in Cornwall for the summer. And all the really good books are about orphans (The Secret Garden, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Harry Potter). But none of these are post-apocalyptic; they're just parentless.
So is nuclear holocaust just another literary trick for wiping out the adults? Or was there something particular about our Cold War upbringings that made us want to read about what happens after the apocalypse? What was *your* favorite post-apocalyptic young adult book?