It is a truth universally acknowledged, that young adult readers will always be shamed. I’m not surprised that someone has decided to criticize YA readers, authors, and books.
Since I’m primarily a YA blogger, I thought I’d address this issue in the next installment of my discussion series, Beyond the Blurb. And before we get to the post, let’s give Melissa from The Reader and the Chef a round of applause for addressing this topic. A writer from Fordham Ram, Fordham University’s journal of record, suggested readers read their age. I understand the original poster is an aspiring writer, but antagonizing a potential and a powerful audience isn’t necessarily the right direction to go before starting a writing career.
Contrary to what the original poster states, young adult targets readers aged 12 to 17, not 18. Adult fiction targets anyone over the age of 18, not 20 and above. Now, the publishing community is still debating this category (not a genre, mind you) since approximately 55% of all YA readers are adult. Some people believe YA is strictly for teenagers. Others see an opportunity of splitting the category into YA and YA with mature content. But other people believe that classification is more new adult (NA), which addresses other topics and subject matter.
Some of the writer’s examples are not YA titles though. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is historical fiction, and no one would assume that the strong and political storyline would be aimed toward children alone. Even though it is read in schools throughout the world, that fact doesn’t deem it as a YA title, but it does teach them many valuable lessons.
And if I’m not mistaken, the Harry Potter series originally started as a middle grade fantasy and transitioned into YA once the main characters matured. Daniel Woodrell’s Winter Bone is a contemporary mystery with a 16-year-old protagonist. But the subject matter does not put it in the YA category. Sometimes, people simply don’t realize that just because the main character is in a certain age group does not make the book YA.
Yes, I agree that YA stirs up nostalgia. But one pivotal reason why this category is so appealing is how it’s universally applicable, according to the Guardian. Coming-of-age stories will entice any reader of any age. It doesn’t matter if you’re a teen or a middle-aged reader. We continue to change; we continue to evolve at all stages.
I have found countless YA books that not only gave me a better understanding of my troubled past but also provided me a new perspective in my current life stage. YA also saved me from my past and present. Yes, reading will always be an escape, but I don’t read YA titles because of that. I read it because the authors who have staked their claim in this category have excelled well and deserve to be heard.
YA books don’t always have any associations to high schools, opposite of what the poster claims. Many YA titles like Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles and Somaiya Daud’s debut novel, Mirage, have no connection to schooling. In fact, both of these series deal with serious and deadly situations and topics. They address racism, oppression, and rebellion. Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows brings sexual abuse and slavery to the forefront of literature. More YA authors discuss issues you simply don’t always see in adult fiction.
YA has taught me how to fight back, how not to stay quiet, how to champion the unheard voice that others are dead set on silencing, and how not to trust the people we put in government. Now, YA books are giving marginalized authors and character the opportunity—possibly the only opportunity—to stand up. They are telling their stories. YA books aren’t published just for that “lucrative movie deal.” It has transformed into a platform these authors and characters can proudly stand on.
Perhaps, instead of criticizing a legitimate piece of the literary world, look beyond giving YA a bad rap. It isn’t crippling adult fiction. Ask yourself why so many readers are drawn toward this category. Ask yourself why readers have abandoned a well-loved category, not put the blame on another. Bring hard proof that YA is indeed affecting adult fiction.
And next time, take heed to the advice of Giordano Bruno: “It is more blessed to be wise in truth in the face of opinion, than to be wise in opinion in the face of truth.”