I am guiltily admitting that I've read (devoured?) every one of the Twilight books (thanks Jill) and then got stuck on the "House of Night" books (inspired by the phrase "vampyre finishing school") and thus felt obligated to read the article "How Twilight, other dark fiction affect Teen brains"
Probably as we all realize, current teen fiction reflects current world concerns, so I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that Strauss describes the current trend as "dystopian and dark." In a conversation with a children's media specialist, they worry about the vulnerability of characters having a negative affect on readers and that authors should "have a moral obligation to make sure that their works contain some positive ethic."
Hmm. A long time ago I read Bruno Bettelheim's "The Uses of Enchantment" and wrote a paper comparing adolescent science fiction and fantasy to younger children's reading of fairy tales - both a safe way of working through fears and dreams.
I'm trying to decide the "fears" that readers may be dealing with while reading these novels. Bella is definitely insecure enough for a dozen middle school girls. There is a conflict between good and evil, there is a dichotomy between the incredible control that the Cullens exhibit vs the other vampires in the series, there is rebellion against the corrupt authority of the vampire council...
As to whether other teen literature (not "dark") has the same sorts of themes? I have only read recent books and cannot remember some of the older ones. But "Bridge to Terabithia" is by no means fluffy, "My Brother Sam is Dead" is another one I remember reading, not light work either. "Lord of the Rings" - war. "Foundation Series" - decline of civilization.
And I just realized that I spent how long writing this post and I don't teach English/Language Arts!!
Math/Science/Technology geek strikes again...