You read the title. And It’s true: I’m not a fan of Young Adult literature. This must be a shattering opinion to hear from a young author, and in a way, ironic, since I both read and write in the genre. I emphasize my point “not a fan.” As in, I’m not for YA in the overall sense when it comes to writing. But first, let me tell you why, and maybe then you will understand.
I once picked up a book. Wow, it was a good one! It was filled with all sorts of adventure and whimsical fun which a book is supposed to contain within its pages. I went back to the library to pick up another. And another. And another. And suddenly, that whimsical little book didn’t seem all it was cut out to be. Why? Because there was another just like it. And another. And another. Five, ten, even twenty books that were all almost exactly the same. Word after word, sentence after sentence, page after page. And, suddenly, after picking up a new book and reading the back cover, all I could accomplish was a yawn.
YA has an uncharacteristic habit of copying popular elements of its genre, whatever those elements may be. How many books have you read about an ordinary person, usually a girl, being drawn into a secret club, group, school, or organization? How many contemporary heroes have troubled school and home life (Usually with mean girls), building up to a climax where the character makes a terrible mistake, loses all his or her friends and somehow everything turns out all right in the end? How many fantasy epics or sci-fi dystopians involve overthrowing an unjust government or king that succeeds? Or better yet, a chosen one or prophecy about the main character saving the entire human race? Ugh, no more love triangles with that prophecy, please!
Sound familiar? Well, it sure does to me.
Now don’t get me wrong. Sometimes, having something similar to another is not bad. “The merit of originality is not novelty; it is sincerity” said Thomas Carlyle, and he’s not wrong. Popular threads can be used, as they will probably continue to be: they just have to be used in the right way. It is uninterrupted repetition, which is tiring to keep picking off the shelves, that is bad.
It’s Often Inappropriate.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve opened a YA and been so appalled by the inappropriateness that I go looking for soap to scrub it away. Language, obsceneness, violence, there is no end to the amount of, well, just plain unneeded content. And, when taking into conjecture that young adults range from mid-twenties to thirteen, even twelve, it’s even more gob-smacking.
Take for example Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. According to the publisher of this bestseller, the starting age for the book is twelve. And the topics covered include profanity, harm/gore, violence from the main character and others, lying/manipulation, disrespect to authority figures/disrespectful authority figures, explicit body parts, murder (the boy was also twelve when he murdered someone, by the way), and… yeah, I think that’s it.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the book itself was good. Orson Scott Card is an incredibly talented writer when it comes to storytelling and crafting characters. But all this… for twelve year olds?
It’s funny, in a way. If you think about it, YA is too old to write immaturely yet not old enough to be mature. In the end you get a terrible blending, in most cases, of childish literature with swearing, violence, and many worse things thrown in. And if that’s the case, I’ll just stick to the kids section. At least it’s not old enough to be having an identity crisis.
There’s Nothing Worthwhile.
This is probably the most disheartening of all the reasons I often avoid the YA section. Whenever I read a book from the section, mindlessness is the prevailing theme of the whole menagerie. Have you ever picked up a YA, read it, and said, “Wow, this book was beautiful because of -insert-. I’m so glad I read it.” No? Well, you’re not the only one.
Unfortunately, these days there is often no thought whatsoever that goes into a YA story beyond the surface. No overall theme or point, even a bad one. There’s no point at all except to write about a girl who goes about her day, smooches a couple boys, makes a couple remarks to score brownie points, and then overthrows the empire and gets both of them in the end. Um, what just happened? And why do I feel so empty after reading?
Often, in stories, the best books are a combination of entertainment and teaching. You don’t always read for thoughtless enjoyment: You read to grow the seed of your mind into a flowering flourishing garden. C. S. Lewis made this point by asking not “Is it mine?” but “Is it good? Is what is written good?” And often, unfortunately, the actual content is never the main objective.
Again, when I say I’m not a fan of YA, that does not mean I hate the genre or that I will not read anything tainted with its foul odor. There are in fact, many books (If not few and far between) I’ve plucked from the YA shelves of my library and thoroughly enjoyed as being good books. Even more have made their way onto my own shelf.
The point I am making is that overall, YA has fallen to a level of disrepair and view of the typical teen that is down casting. Are young people really worth as much credit as YA authors give them? If we measured today’s teen by the first five books you pulled off the shelf, what would your impression be?
No. Young people are worth more, much more than the credit YA gives. Hopefully, future authors will recognize these things. Maybe they will be able to throw them off, taking up their keyboards for the good of literature and its readers. Something, word by word, that will create a better literary world for both readers and writers to enjoy and grow from in both mind and character.
2 thoughts on “Why I’m Not a Fan of YA”
Wow! These are all such great points. This is the reason I took up writing: because readers need something more than the surface-level, meaningless content and usually childish writing that so many YA books have. However, I agree that there are a few good ones out there, and they have made their way onto my shelf.
I. Agree. 100%. I have felt this way for years, to the point of giving up on YA altogether (until I picked up Fawkes, and then I had hope for the genre 😉) since I have discovered a few YA books that broke the low standards. But it’s so sad what YA has come to… Keep up writing, Olivia, I can’t wait until your books make it out there, Lord willingly, to help add life to the YA genre.