Why I read YA

Recently, I was having a chat with some friends from university, and – inevitably, as I am a literature student – the topic of books came up. They asked me what I was reading, and the dialogue went a little like this:

Me: Oh, it’s called ‘The Heart Goes Last’ – it’s a Dystopian.

Friend: *scrunches up face, unimpressed* Dystopian?

Me: I mean…it’s not YA. It’s a Margaret Atwood book.

Friend: Oh, I see. That’s alright then.

Just to clarify, I’m not at all cross about this; it just made me think. Because although I wasn’t reading a Young Adult book at the time, I do read YA – and I read it in copious amounts.

I’ll be the first to admit that there are some very repetitive genre tropes – especially in the Dystopian branch – and yes, sometimes there are aspects in the books that can be a little…well, juvenile. But if you ask me, YA has a lot going for it.

For starters, Young Adult books are making reading cool. People everywhere are going crazy for books like The Hunger Games and Divergent – and so what if they’re a little overrated? People are reading, and I think that’s awesome. Books are powerful, and if it takes a hype-fuelled craze to get people hooked, then so be it. I think reading is so important for every generation, and YA is acting as ‘gateway literature’ for thousands of young people. That’s not why I read it, though.

Another great thing about YA is that it doesn’t tend to take itself too seriously. Novels under this literary umbrella thrive in the fantastical, science-fiction realms, and they aren’t afraid to hurl their readers right into the depths of human imagination. These books are unashamedly adventuring and they are doing it fabulously. (It probably helps that I personally have very little time for scientific explanations – this may not be a good thing for other people.)  Look at Cinder for example: futuristic, sci fi fairy-tale retellings? I am all over that. So yes, I love the sheer creativity and freedom of imagination in YA novels.But again, that’s not my reason for reading them.

There are a lot of other good things about YA novels. They’re accessibly written – none of this elitist literature today, thank you very much.

Does he really think big emotions come from big words?

(Sneaky Hemingway quote.)

But seriously, books are for everyone.

I also love that YA books can be really thoughtful: Dystopians especially get people who might not usually take an interest in politics (okay, me. I’m talking about me) to think more critically about government, and what a healthy political system actually looks like.

Lastly, YA books are inspiring. I’m not talking about great literary achievements or anything like that – although I don’t rule that out. What I mean is, YA literature features over and over again young people stepping out to make a difference, taking action and being important. It highlights youth as game-changers, decision-makers and world-shapers, and I think that’s so so important! It kicks apathy’s butt and shows our young people examples of people they can relate to who are growing in independence and strength, and while they are fallible and don’t always make the right choices, they are absolutely never useless. I think that’s a pretty important message to get out there.

Having said that, that’s not the reason I read YA.

Can I be real with you? When I pick up a Young Adult book, I find it really easy to jump right into the stories. They’re not too fussy or wordy or self-impressed, and they’re fun. I read YA because I like it, and you know what? I don’t really feel like I need to justify that.

 

Thanks for reading and have a lovely day!

~Dani

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7 thoughts on “Why I read YA

  1. Great post Dani! I read and review a lot of YA books for many of the same reasons you’ve listed. Plus, every once in a while you stumble across little gems that don’t fall into the ubiquitous tropes of dystopian or paranormal fiction. Two of my favorite books from last year were Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertelli and Everything Everything, by Nicole Yoon. I also just read and reviewed Golden Boys, by Sonya Hartnett which is a brilliant story of childhood innocence lost. There’s a reason why so many adult authors are trying their hand at writing YA fiction. 🙂

  2. I love this post to death. To hell with those elitists who think that YA is too “juvenile” or “immature” for them – when in reality, they were young adults themselves and would’ve loved reading YA when it was accessible during their time. I also liked how you said YA as “gateway literature”. I honestly think YA opened a lot of avenues for both readers and authors alike. More people are reading books because of these “hyped” YA books – and that’s a good thing!

  3. I had exactly this at university also (I did literature too). Every week I had to put up with this exact scenario;

    I enter my classroom, put my book on the desk. Somebody picks it up, reads the blurb and says something along the lines of “why do you read all this YA fantasy crap?”

    I hate the assumption that YA is bad fiction, personally I feel this comes from the dozens of bad movie adaptions.

    For me YA was an escape from the really dense ‘literary classics’ we’d read for class. Then I fell in love with it. Like you, I feel that I get immersed in YA far more than anything else.

    You’d think that literature students would be more understanding but apparently not!

    • Oh you might be onto something about the movie adaptations! I never thought about that.
      Haha I know! Especially when we have to read some of those Gothic texts (The Monk, I’m looking at you) that are full of allll the things people criticise about YA – just because they’re in the ‘literary canon’ doesn’t make them great either 😛

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