R is for Revenge...There are plenty of books with feel-good revenge themes for adult readers. We marvel at Edmond Dantes' stamina in THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO when he makes trouble for those who had him wrongfully imprisoned. Many years ago, when I watched the movie version of WAITING TO EXHALE in the theater, a chorus of "You go girl!" sounded around me as Bernadine sets fire to her cheating husband's fancy clothes and car. In MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, even Hercule Poirot sympathizes with the murderers who took their revenge on the evil Ratchett.
I wonder if feel-good revenge is a concept intended only for adults to enjoy. Although there are definitely stories about revenge involving adolescents in young adult lit, I see stories about revenge in picture books or middle grade novels less frequently. When a young character is mistreated or maligned in most children's books, the subtle message of taking the high road or using your wit to outsmart the villain often overrides the notion of "playing dirty" to even the score. Even when a revenge seeker makes an appearance in children's literature, they are often adults or non-humans. In HOLES, Madame Zeroni, stinging from a broken promise, places a curse on the protagonist's ancestor. In SHREK! (the picture book, NOT the movie) Shrek fights the aggression he encounters from others with even more aggression.
Many young characters, especially in contemporary fiction, encounter hindrances or backlash for seeking revenge. In RAMONA THE BRAVE, Ramona gets in trouble for destroying her classmate Susan's owl after Susan wins praise by copying Ramona's owl. In DIARY OF A WIMPY KID, Greg is ready to fight his former friend Rowley for taking sole credit for their comic when a group of older kids come by to harass them both. In THE SHADOW CLUB, members initially take revenge on rivals by playing silly pranks, but as the dirty deeds become more vindictive, the perpetrators eventually have to face their guilty consciences. Attempts at revenge don't often play out well for young characters.
...But there are exceptions. In MATILDA, Matilda plays all sorts of tricks on the adults who cut her down, from putting crazy glue on her father's hat to using telekinesis to intimidate the headmistress at her school. And she gets away with all this consequence and guilt-free.
Can you think of more exceptions in children's books where revenge is considered acceptable behavior, for example, in fairytales? How about books where revenge is a no-no? Should there be boundaries on how revenge is presented in children's books, young adult books, or adult fiction? Do you like stories where revenge is part of the plot?