As a member of what would be primarily considered the ‘YA (young adult) audience’ and a passionate member of it at that, I’ve recently come to the realisation that the importance of YA literature as a whole cannot be overstated. YA is often considered to be a transition between the massive differences in children’s and adult literature and, rightly so, has risen to great prominence within the last few years.
Too often I have come across posts, or read comments downgrading YA into a category filled with stereotypes and misconceptions. People can be harsh when judging what ‘YA’ actually means, and make the assumption that it is simply adult literature that is somehow ‘easier’ to read, or that it is all a variant of very similar plotlines. I can honestly say, however, that as a whole this is in no way true. Young adult literature is hugely responsible for:
a) Getting young adults into reading, or keeping interest, in an increasingly technological society
b) Introducing us to real-life themes in sensitive and thought-provoking ways
c) Relating to an age group that is scarcely considered in the many branches of children’s/adult literature
To go into further detail, I recently read a comment almost shaming a teenager for saying that their favourite novel was John Green’s ‘The Fault in our Stars’, simply because it is ‘mainstream’ or because there is a film adaptation. In a world with 24/7 internet access and subsequent constant reliance on technology, why are people not celebrating the fact that teenagers are still reading and relating to novels? It is YA literature that is largely responsible for this, as it provides an imaginative outlet with relatable characters, in relatable scenarios, with relatable problems that young people want to read about, rather than characters that lived back in the 18th/19th centuries (no offence, Jane Austen!) but have little relevance to the modern day young adult’s life. This doesn’t mean that young adults solely read from the YA pool, classics are also very enjoyable to a variety of audiences; it is just that I personally often find a YA novel or two in between heavy classics can keep the inspiration flowing!
To follow on from this, I find that it is very rare to come across a YA book, especially from the last few years, that doesn’t bear some form of powerful societal message, whether it be obvious, or you have to read a bit more between the lines. For example, just from reading YA I have gained so much more awareness of mental health, sexuality, relationships, the importance of family…the list goes on and on. Recently I read Holly Bourne’s ‘The Manifesto on How to be Interesting’, which throughout deals sensitively with topics of friendship, image and as previously mentioned, mental health. After that, and which also inspired the writing of this post was Laura Buzo’s ‘Love and other Perishable Items’ which contains some of the most interesting and original takes on feminism that I’ve ever read. YA, therefore, isn’t just your cliché high school romance (it can be, however, if that’s what you’re looking for), it’s so, so much more than that and I for one feel privileged to be sensitively exposed to such a wide range of themes and feel more knowledgeable as a result.
It’s interesting to note, in my opinion, that for a very long time, the young adult reader was not being fully catered to in literature. There are many older books featuring younger protagonists, but very few (that I’ve come across) that really resonate with the crucial 14-19 year old audience. I’m willing to admit that YA does, of course, have clichés, but what form of literature doesn’t? Surely clichés must be present within every genre in order for the work to be classified as that particular genre. Yes, the messy haired, confident teenage love interest crops up in more than a few YA novels I’ve read, but it’s virtually impossible to avoid some of these clichés (which are evidently popular); it’s all about how they are woven into the story.
Although I could go into more detail, I like to think I’ve made my point quite clear in this post as YA literature is something I am incredibly passionate about and will fight for at any time. I am, however, considering making some kind of survey about YA to find out some thoughts and statistics surrounding it, so please feel free to comment on whether you’d be willing to take part.
Just to round off this post as a sort of side-note, I am not writing a Reflection for the month of June because in reading terms, it’s an absolute write-off. I did read in the month, I just didn’t exactly finish any novels and therefore have nothing to write about (how embarrassing for a book blog!) In July, however, things will be back in full swing, I PROMISE!
In the meantime, I hope you’re having a lovely day and go on to have a lovely week!