Though you may be embarrassed to admit that you used to own a pair of Jncos, many of your current tastes were probably formed from the things you consumed as a teenager. And while it's easy to be nostalgic for the
days of yore, you might be pleasantly surprised by what the young’uns are into
these days. For every Beiber and Boo Boo,
there's a handful of genuinely good shows, bands, books and blogs you may skip over simply because
they’re marketed towards the younger set. To keep you “jiggy” (am I saying that right?) with today’s
youth, here are five of the best things out there that may have flown under your radar.
5. John Green
2012 was a very good year for YA author John Green. The Fault in Our Stars, his novel about lovelorn cancer patients, became a New York Times best seller; Vlogbrothers, a daily video blog he shares with his brother Hank, skyrocketed to YouTube fame; and the Nerdfighters, Green's fan community, raised over $1 million for various charities. Teen romances have the tendency to lose their urgency when read again at a later age, but Green chronicles the absurd ups and heartbreaking downs of relationships with a precision that could be applied to any age. Go out and read The Fault in Our Stars — and don’t be afraid of getting caught in the YA section.
Whenever I try to explain the premise behind the British TV show Misfits, I end up sounding (in the words of Kelly, the lovable Chav) like a melon fucker. You see, five juvenile delinquents are doing community service when a freak storm hits and gives them super powers. Uh, it’s not as stupid as it sounds. In its four seasons, it’s featured copious drug use, “granny fucking,” public defecation, and, on one occasion, bestiality. (Again, quoting Kelly: “Aye fooked a moon-kay.”) It’s not your average superhero drama, and these kids definitely aren’t trying to save the world. They’re just trying to get through community service in one piece, and they can’t help it if zombie cheerleaders, homicidal probation workers, and brain-washing missionaries keep getting in their way.
Founded by post-millennial wunderkind Tavi Gevinson, Rookie is the online version of the journal you used to keep in middle school — if you occasionally received contributions from Ira Glass, Lena Dunham, and Josh Whedon. It balances a dreamy aesthetic with a fierce feminist mindset, like the wise, older sister you never had. And it takes on topics typically glossed over by Seventeen or Cosmo: from laughing at racism to dealing with mental illness to fashion of the Harlem Renaissance. It’s hard not to feel bad for your teenage self, who didn’t have such a wonderful resource to help navigate high school. Then again, we did have Nintendo.
2. Adventure Time
There are some good cartoons out there for adults, but many of them suffer from a Family Guy-esque infection of too many stale pop culture references, disappointing lead characters, and boring cynicism. Enter Adventure Time, a show about a boy and his magical, shape-shifting dog. The bright colors and whimsy make it a given for Cartoon Network’s target audience, but the show's dark humor and Lynchian surrealism attracts kids well into their thirties. (Jake the Dog is based on Bill Murray’s character from Meatballs, and Marceline the Vampire Queen's fuzzy sexuality, enviable style, and general bad-assery has made her somewhat of a Tumblr icon.) Though it is a kids show, its positive free-to-be-you-and-me message is never forced, especially when you catch yourself aimlessly humming along to "Bacon Pancakes."
1. Ned Vizzini
Though he doesn’t have a monstrous community of fans behind him like John Green, Ned Vizzini writes the type of YA that will make you cringe in joint-embarrassment and sob in solidarity. His most famous book, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, was a starkly funny, honest look into mental illness and anxiety among adolescents, a subject that’s often written about without enough nuance. Vizzini has a knack for tapping into the insecurity of that age that makes it easy to relate to his characters, even if you personally have never checked into a psychiatric ward. His most recent book, The Other Normals, takes that same instinct and puts it in a fantasy setting that has enough high school embarrassments to give it a John Hughes vibe. YA lit has become a force to be reckoned with, and writers like Vizzini are proving that’s it’s not all about vampires and wizards.