Saturday, June 28, 2014

3 Reasons YA Authors Deserve More Respect

One of the most ridiculous things I have been seeing around the literary world lately is that YA or young adult novels are not good literature. It seems like many reviewers have relegated YA novels to the realm of chick-lit or fluffy romance novels that have no real literary value. Unless they were written by John Green, who was just given the title "savior of YA." (Not to take anything away from him because his work is fantastic.)  But there seems to be a hierarchy of writers which has nothing to do with the popularity of the books but rather the age of the main character, the sex of the writer and the age of the intended audience. Well I'm here to tell you that your bias against YA novels is wrong. You're SO wrong, and here's why:

1. YA spans every genre and are *gasp also written by men.

So many reviewers and people in general assume that YA is basically fantasy/romance or dystopian novels with a teenage protagonist. This might appear to be the case in recent years with the rise of the Twilight and Hunger Games franchises, but the fact is, YA spans into every possible genre with great success. Here's just a few examples: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky; The Absolute True Diary of Being a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie; Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell; The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and If I Stay by Gayle Forman. None of these books have any fantastical elements or were written by John Green, but yet they are all extremely popular with a wide YA audience. If we would all pay attention to what is being published rather than what is currently being made into franchise movies, I think more people would be able to appreciate the diversity and complexities of the YA category.

2. YA books are just as difficult to write as general, genre and literary fiction.

I think some people get confused by the YA writing process. It is the same regardless if the sentence structure is a bit simpler and the plot lines a little more direct. The point of the YA novel is to be accessible to teenage readers who have not necessarily developed abstract thinking. In fact, I know many adults that have never developed abstract thinking. So, if these novels were not written for these particular skills (or lack of skills) they would be written for adults. However, just because they are directed toward a particular group does not mean they are less "literary" in nature or were some how simpler or less time consuming to write. In fact, they might be more difficult to write because authors must be more careful how information is given or withheld. Teenagers are not adults and do not think like adults. The majority of YA authors are adults. Does this really need any more explanation?

3.  YA books are important for the development of the younger generations.

What you are doing when you put down an entire class of books based on a few examples is limiting the education of the younger generation. Telling kids that books written for them have no literary value is telling them not to bother reading. What you get from that are kids with no "learned" lessons or "experiences" to draw from later in life. They have limited examples of choices to make and limited examples of heroes to admire. They lose the opportunity to connect with a character; to fall in love with a character; and to see there are others out there just like them. YA books regardless of genre expand kids' minds, give hope and offer much more learning opportunities than can be expressed. Kids need these books. Many adults need these books to help them process and accept the things that they went through as a teenager. They are important and will continue to be important literature. It's time to accept the fact; that YA does not need saving but rather more promotion.

In conclusion to this soap box post, by all means continue to read and review YA books. But review each book on its own merit. One book or one sub-genre of books should not cloud your view of the entire category. If you don't like fantasy/ dystopian adult novels, you will not like the YA versions. But I promise you there are thousands, maybe even millions of other options. I'm not going to lie, YA books are freaking awesome. YA authors are freaking awesome. Both deserve the respect and admiration of the literary world.

I'm done,

Jami