Let’s talk about House of Cards.
Okay, except not really, because I’m only on episode 7 of season 1. But let’s talk about what House of Cards can teach books. Particularly the rising subsets of books that have blown up in popularity and raced toward an inevitable goal of copying one another as much as humanly possible. Young adult fiction and new adult romance have turned into a race to the bottom, if you will. When you have one TWILIGHT, you have fifty clones. When you have a HUNGER GAMES, you spawn a new undying caste of sullen princesses who want to kiss a boy the government says they can’t. When you have one BEAUTIFUL DISASTER, suddenly you have 5000 self-published novels about romantic abuse.
But that’s not the point. House of Cards has nothing to do with YA or NA – or does it?
House of Cards has everything that YA and NA is missing these days. Tension that’s not based solely on sex. Thrills that don’t come from bloodbaths or, well, more sex. Action that is beyond guns portrayed as good and wholesome entertainment. House of Cards has tension, thrills, and action in the form of words, in the form of back alley power plays between the best – and the worst – of America. And I love every second of it.
Francis Underwood is an antihero that I would kill to see in a young adult novel, as a power hungry young woman clawing her way up the high school ladder. What I wouldn’t give for a YA novel about the perils of student government. Or for an NA about a girl interning in Washington for a semester. Show me Capitol Hill with all the backstabbing goodness that isn’t realistic (I was a Congressional intern, albeit in a field office, after all) and making out in the conference room.
I want to see couples who are about more than sex. I want to see couples like Frank and Claire who both have their eyes on the prize and will do anything to get it. I want to see young go-getters who will sacrifice everything for a scoop, not for a boy with eyes like oceans and lips like bananas, or whatever kids call them these days. I want to see intrigue and twists and pain that isn’t physical – or not just physical.
Hell, I just want to see something more than the same cookie cutter plots, and House of Cards has Corey Stoll! Why can’t my YA novel have him? Okay, unrealistic, I know. How many teenage heroes are playing balding alcoholic politicians?
House of Cards has a lot to teach YA and NA. But will YA and NA survive when the focus is not on how much sexual tension a couple has and on how much people will do for success? Highly, HIGHLY doubtful.