Do I Dare Disturb the Universe? A Study of Anti-Authoritarian Young Adult Novels

Jen Waters


Widely read, frequently assigned, consistently censored, The Chocolate War is the kind of YA book that keeps book discussions honest. "What is the price," it asks its many readers, "of disturbing the universe," of making one's own individual choice in spite of the dictates and unrelenting pressures of The Established Order? Each new reader stops anew to consider his own answer.
Shirley Jackson's short story, "The Lottery" also met its share of controversy when it first appeared (in The New Yorker, decades ago) but the controversy died down with time, and the story was ultimately tamed into an anthologized college classic. "What does it mean?" the magazine's editors initially asked about the tale that begins so innocently on a summer day in a friendly New England village and ends with a communal stoning of its sacrificial victim. "It's just a story," the author replied. It was "just a story" that incited dozens of irate readers to cancel their New Yorker subscriptions and hundreds of writers to take poison pens in hand.
What is the nerve that each of these literary works has touched? And what of Canadian writer Beth Goobie's much more recent young adult Lottery, which is clearly inspired by the earlier Shirley Jackson one? Has it touched a nerve, too?
Same question; Different era. Is it easier or harder for young readers to ask it today, in a Patriot Act kind of world?

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The Looking Glass: new perspectives on children's literature

ISBN 1551-5680