The Wildest Teenagers in Literature

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In Wild Girls , Mary Stewart Atwell’s new debut novel, the young ladies of Swan River are changing. The “wild girls,” teenagers suddenly imbued with supernatural powers that give them both the ability and the will to murder, menace the town while Kate Riordan tries to hang on to both her life and her sanity. Inspired by this impressive debut, we’ve put together a list of what we consider to be some of the wildest teenagers in literature — from gang members to errant soldiers to kids making the best of a bad situation by going feral. See our choices after the jump, and if we missed your favorite literary teen on a rampage, be sure to add to our list in the comments.

Alex and his droogs, A Clockwork Orange

Well, obviously. In fact, Alex and his gang are clearly a few clicks past your average “wild,” what with their nightly campaigns of ultra-violence and taste for random, mean-spirited mayhem. They steal, they brutalize, they rape everyone they can get their hands on. And then there’s that highly deviant obsession Alex has with Beethoven’s Ninth.

Romeo and Juliet, Romeo and Juliet

Gang fighting, sneaking out of the house, taking roofies from a priest for a fake suicide pact that ends up being real? Pretty out there for two 14 year olds.

The boys, Popular Hits of the Showa Era

To be fair, we could have put almost any of Ryu Murakami’s teenage characters on this list — the drugged up lost souls in Almost Transparent Blue, the lavishly troubled and masochistic orphans in Coin Locker Babies — but we have a certain fondness for the directed depravity of the boys in this book, who start a completely impulsive turf war with a bunch of middle-aged divorcées in their neighborhood. That’s what happens when you’re so disaffected you’ve lost all sensitivity to anything but your own pain.

Jack et al, Lord of the Flies

The entire premise of this book is that boys will go wild if you stick them by themselves on an island for long enough — and go wild they do, descending into savagery with alarming alacrity — so of course it makes the list. All that heat-induced hallucination and ritual dancing is good for nobody.

The Greasers and the Socs, The Outsiders

S.E. Hinton’s gang fiction classic is a prime example of that typical rich kid vs. working class kid rivalry exploding into a vicious clique war. But in this one, things go too far too fast, someone dies, and everyone burns.

Sun Katz and her Suk Hee Kim, Maul

The 16-year-old girls in this science fiction thriller are headed to the mall, where they intend to stock up on makeup, the newest trends, and survive a brutal firefight with rival girl gang at Lord & Taylor’s over the last tube of lipstick. Which they do, happily quoting Sun Tzu. Of course, this is only half the story.

Julian et al, Less Than Zero

The teenagers in Bret Easton Ellis’ classic tome of disaffection would be wilder if they could be bothered. They try everything to rouse themselves: one-night-stands and drug-fueled partying, snuff films, staring at dead bodies, keeping 12-year-old sex slaves, and though it seems highly deviant to us, to them, it’s only one step up from utter boredom. This applies to everyone, but for our money, Trent and Julian are the worst.

The students, Battle Royale

Okay, we know this isn’t really fair — none of these kids chose to be fight each other to the death — but they turned pretty wild all the same. Yes, some got wilder than others (we’re looking at you, Kiriyama), but anyone running around trying to murder their classmates makes this list.

Ender and Peter, Ender’s Game

The students of Battle School are a wild bunch to be sure, but it’s an institutionalized wildness, a kind that gets you positive reinforcements. Ender is wilder than the rest, willing to break the rules, step outside of the box, and kill boys in bathrooms, but only if they really deserve it. Peter, on the other hand, is truly wild — as a child he tortured small animals and his little brother, and as a teenager he wheedles his way into national prominence and takes over the world via the Internet, his dark purposes building behind his eyes all the while.

The Foxfire gang, Foxfire

Joyce Carol Oates’ ’50s girl gang is one of our favorites: they steal stuff, sure, but their main goal is to punish the men who sexually harass them, to avenge the wrongs done to their sex — until things escalate and the girls’ own rambunctious wildness begins to run away with them.