I am not an expert on YA lit. I am not an expert because I gave up on YA lit early in my life – oddly enough, while I was part of the target YA demographic. I gave up on YA because I read this Sweet Valley High series that was just awful. Worse, I bought a bunch for a vacation and read almost all of them in the first three hours of the drive. I decided YA was “too easy” and I needed to challenge myself more as a reader.
Let me be clear: I don’t fault my decision to read books that were more challenging and captivating. I do, however, fault my logic in thinking that a recent bad book series represented all of YA lit’s offerings. I had written off HP in middle school when friends said I would love it; I couldn’t get past the first chapter (and when I gave the books a try again in college and did get past the first chapter, I couldn’t believe it took me so long). Basically, I just decided that if this blockbuster book series wasn’t captivating enough early on and this other series was terrible, then everything was bad. I used to make generalizations of varying, hyperbolic extremes.
There are plenty of great posts out there on why we shouldn’t write off YA lit. In particular, you’ll want to take a look at the excellent “Young Adult Literature is Better Than You Think” by Marisa Reichardt. The piece is a great, succinct examination of our own prejudices about YA lit, and it includes refutations. I thought about the piece a lot last week, and I’d like to throw down just one more reason why, if you aren’t reading it already, you should start.
If you’re the key demographic for YA lit (you know, a young adult), then do as I do now, not as I did. YA lit offers intense, visceral transformations. Characters are bridging that difficult transition from childhood to adulthood. There are darker themes, but there’s also that persistent hope tinted with naiveté. It’s darkly beautiful, and you can expect a whole range of emotions along the way.
If you’re beyond the YA years, understand this: YA lit propels readers forward, but it also takes them back. Remember the feeling of having so many choices in front of you, and how stressful yet exhilarating that was? YA lit is a bridge from childhood to adulthood, and you can make that journey in either direction. Don’t mistake ease of reading for a shallow reading experience. This is some of the most evocative, deep writing out there.
Not sure where to start? Look for a “What’s Next?” post later this week!
Why do you read YA lit? Why not? What makes it compelling? What do you think is missing?