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!