Sunday, August 10, 2014

A YA Lover and A YA Hater Walk Into a Chatbox

3:25 AM

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A few weeks ago, our Managing Editor, PaCho, (subtly) took to the Thingamabobs Facebook group to see if she could find anyone to write an article exhibiting an anti stance on the current state of young adult (YA) literature.

The debate on YA lit has been a sensitive topic among beings of our generation and beyond, so we figured that it would be interesting to ask people with opposite stances for their thoughts. At that time, we already had a YA lover on board to help us out, so we were hoping to find someone with a deep hatred for YA to maintain the balance.  

All of a sudden, there was talk of "recycling a YA book's pages" and using it to "slap a bitch."

It was at that point that Niki, one of our trusty Thingamabobs (and resident style consultant), decided to step up and defend YA. 

What followed was a really amusing (and extremely constructive) Facebook conversation between the two in which they discuss a bunch of things including dystopian novels, Bella Swan, and teen angst in the context of YA literature.

Below is the entire transcript for the benefit of you awesome people.

The Chat

PaCho:           There actually is somebody writing a pro-YA article, but inversely, we needed someone to do an anti-YA as well, which was why I was fishing for contributors :))

Niki:               AHHHHH makes sense!

                       hahaha that's cool though! interesting to do different POVs
                       are you really personally annoyed with a lot of current YA novels though? just curious

PaCho:           I don't hate the genre, considering that it's so broad (Harry Potter is technically YA, right?). But I feel like there are sub-genres of YA that really need to shut up.

Niki:               YES HAHAHA

i love a lot of YA though like girl by blake nelson! if you haven't read it, you have to check it out!!!! one of those really unforgettable books

but yeah i feel like there's too much post-apocalyptic badly written dystopian stuff out there right now as well

PaCho:           Dystopian novels would be great if any were actually set outside the USA. Sometimes I just figure that it's only the US that went back to killing people for sport while the world is totally chill orz

What I particularly don't like in a lot of YA these days is this underlying message that no one understands you or something, and that it's okay to never be okay. You know what I mean??

Niki:               YES hahahaha me too! parang.... they're all in post- WWIII chicago or whatever. nakakaloka na!

hmm yeah i do get that. it's like, can't you be a happy balanced teen? haha!

i mean, i guess it's comforting to know that it's okay to have times where you feel misunderstood. but not like ALL DAY EVERYDAY

also.... so many "loners" in YA novels now?? like, they make it sound like it's weird to have friends? i feel like bella swan started this trend...

PaCho:           That's probably why I liked Battle Royale a lot -- because it's not frigging America.

Bella Swan definitely started the trend gdi with her "not like other girls" thing going on.

It's the age of the introvert now, and the problem is that they sort of attack the idea of being anything but introverted and anxious? It's hard to find a novel that's all in good fun these days.

Niki:               i was just gonna mention battle royale!

yeah, and i worry that the whole introvert thing might lead to people being too selfish or self-concerned. not that being an introvert is bad at all, it's just that a lot of YA novels (the not-so-great ones) are kind of too "me, me, me"

PaCho:            Battle Royale was the bomb!

That's a very good point! A lot of people really have a way of almost idolizing these works just because they can relate and stuff, but they end up not realizing that some of the things that the characters do and say are actually really problematic orz

I'm introverted myself, but jesus, sometimes I'd really like to step out of my shoes instead of these white people in books giving me more first world problems orz

Niki:               YES HAHA. this is why i love british YA. have you read the georgia nicolson series by louise rennison? pure good fun. i was laughing the whole time!

yeah, it's kind of a problem that it promotes like a weird way of thinking that tends to blame everything around the person except for the person her/himself.

PaCho:           Oooh, I haven't heard of it, but I'll definitely check it out! What's its premise?

And it's kind of weird how there's a subculture of hipsters that just quotes these books all the time as if they're the holy bible orz

Niki:                it's basically about this 14 year old british schoolgirl who is living her life with her 6 friends, figuring out the best kind of lipgloss for your skin tone (or that kind of stuff anyway), and managing her 5 potential boyfriends

it sounds so babaw (and it is) BUT IT'S THE BEST!

you have to check it out! the first one is "angus, thongs, and full-frontal snogging"!!

yeah hahaha! like the stuff you see on tumblr with the stylized quotes! lol :))

PaCho:           omg that was a rollercoaster from start to finish. I really need to look for it!

Exactly! And they're so obscure and so feeling deep that you just want to afhsdfjdsh

Niki:               you have to!!!

HAHA and you know what’s weird?? so many YA novels, especially the dystopian ones, focus on like, arranged marriage and permanent romantic bonding, like matched by ally condie! horrible!

like, what is with this weird fascination with young people getting permanently matched with people??

PaCho:            I think our contemporaries (not necessarily our generation) have this fixation on logical thinking, which is what makes the idea of permanent and unconditional love so fascinating to people.

It's also the era of deconstruction, which is basically the idea of questioning possibilities and what-happens-after-ever-after and all that, which could explain all of the dumb remakes, fairytale movies, and dystopian novels we've got these days

Niki:               wow.

okay, that was very well-said.

you know on top of that, especially with the prevalence and ubiquity of social media, there also tends to be this focus on the self. it's like the era of self-obsession, you know? which might explain a lot of self-obsession on YA lately.

selfies, for instance! so many selfies!

not that they're wrong but it's just... something to think about.

PaCho:            I don’t really see selfies as a bad thing, actually!

Niki:               yes so do i!

                        i love selfies - but just something to think about

                        but is our generation the way it is because of what we feed ourselves (read: YA literature), or do we feed ourselves a specific kind of YA literature because we are how we are?

PaCho:           That's a really good question! However, I think that a lot of things go into how a generation is shaped -- more than just literature, anyway. It's sorta like playdoh that's passed through a thousand hands. I think both history and current affairs do a lot of that, because it changes the way we're taught to think about things and the issues our parents tell us to worry about.

I remember a teacher of mine saying that as civilization "develops", life gets more complicated and "requires" more from you. Like learning calculus at one point, paying taxes, or even having a citizenship. When you think about it, a lot of these things are sort of odd in themselves!

Niki:               oh my gosh i know!!!

with great knowledge comes great responsibility. sorry for the cheesy misquote but it's true!

so, knowing all that - that our society and civilization and everything in between is so developed and so advanced - kind of leaves me wondering. if that's the case, if life is indeed more complicated, and if it does indeed require more of us, why is it that we aren't more careful or selective of the literature we give our young people, our future movers and shakers?

can we be satisfied with just the thought that certain "shallow," "badly written" YA novels are meant not for really seriously influencing people but just as a means of relaxation amidst the chaos that is the 21st century?

PaCho:           Well, we can't discount the fact that a lot of this isn't necessarily about relaxing. There are some people who relate to these books on a personal level.

Literature has always had the dual role of reflecting and shaping life as we know it, and history will tell you that. There's a reason why some books will be remembered, elevated over others -- I mean, I'm pretty sure there's been a "crisis" like this before, in another time and place. The difference is that our critiques are now a lot easier to project onto other people, what with the internet and all that.

We'll just have to wait and see if this wave of YA will stand the test of time -- or if it'll all be swept away, just like the thousands of unnamed penny dreadfuls from so long ago.

What do YOU think about the current state of young adult literature? Sound off in the comments below!

*All opinions expressed in this conversation are entirely those of its participants, and do not represent The Thing's stance on the subject

Art by Marga
PaCho is the nickname of a full-time fangirl who wants an infinite amount of money with which to travel the world and buy merchandise. This girl is currently amassing the skills to achieve these goals, and collecting stories and perspectives along the way (to consequently be the best that no one ever was) at a university. She will smile in satisfaction at the fall of the patriarchy and Western domination of international affairs. She is only half-joking about this (which means that she's completely serious).

Monica grew up in Manila and is currently a college student majoring in Creative Writing. Her favorite food in the world is chocolate, but bacon is a close second. She loves fashion, art, travel, old TV shows, films, and music. She is also a singer-songwriter. You can check out her music at :)
Along with her friends, Marga is always looking for that movie-worthy coming-of-age experience. Marga is a 16-year high school student who often spends her time watching teen movies, hugging her parents, painting, trading music, acting in school plays, hosting online radio broadcasts with her friend, and hanging out at Burger Bar- all the while she is recovering from her extreme emo-girl phase from 4 years ago. Lastly, she is really good in memorising twitter names, kbye. (You can listen to her playlists here:


  1. Since I myself am a "young adult" (lol not really), I read a lot of these books and I like reading them. Ofcourse, there are some awful YA books and some really great ones, just like any other genre of any other thing, really.

    But yeah, I guess you could say I have a love-hate relationship with these books because while I love reading them, there are just some overdone concepts that need to stop being...done! Hehe.

    1. You're absolutely right in saying YA is a pretty broad genre -- though I suppose that's always been the case for all genres, right? The difference between now and way back then is that we're living while the bad stuff is still fresh into publication, while older works are buried in the significance of the great ones that are remembered.

      Same, same. I totally love the idea of dystopian novels, there are so many overdone scenarios, it's crazy

  2. i actually really!!! love!!! YA!!! i agree though, that like all genres, YA is a flawed one with repetitive story lines, unrealistic representations, the mpdg trope, to name a few. however, sometimes people end up generalizing and only seeing YA as full of imperfections, and thus it can easily be assumed that all YA novels fall under the large umbrella of imperfect, crappy, and shallow literature. but i don't think this is the case! there's so much great, insightful, and relatable YA novels out there (imo: the harry potter series, fangirl, paper towns, the book thief, it's kind of a funny story), you just have to give it a try!

    1. Definitely agree! It's bad to generalize! Which is why, in this article, we discuss both good and bad examples of YA literature. :)

  3. Generally not a fan of YA novels now (although it's hard to generalize since it does cover a whole spectrum of good to horrible books) but since I find myself flocking towards other genres I guess I can say that I'm not such a fan??

    It could just be a matter of preference (and personal trauma because I had a really, really terrifying Twilight phase. Like, legit blackmail worthy levels). But I think the argument here is if the anti-YA stance automatically translates to a sort of 'elitism' when it comes to reading books (ex. Girl A hates YA because it's too childish/girly/whatever for her taste in lit) and to an extent I agree that some people can unfairly look down on /all/ YA fans just because they have a certain ~opinion/stigma~ about the quality of YA lit and so they associate the readers with the bad YA. Basically for hardcore haters, it goes like this:
    1. YA is horrible, imo.
    2. Only dumb people read horrible lit.
    3. Other people read YA.
    Conclusion: Other people are dumb for reading YA. (i'm sorry if that's formally incorrect but pls get the gist nalang HAHAHAH basically painful association)

    BUUUUUUT on the other hand it's sort of hard to stomach the kind of YA that is so prevalent now, like idk if I have the right to talk about this because the last time I was exposed to YA it was about a couple meeting their future selves through facebook/email and they had the ability to read/change the future?? Something about love and fate or whatever.... But yeah, (in my experience) it's ridden with cliches and almost always bad characterization and awkward dialogue (or generally bland writing), so I kinda get where some people are coming from (especially a lot of adults). It's also a totally different story if the general trend of the YA themes is descending into oppressive caricatures, wish fulfillment and/or you know, Mary Sues/Gary Stews (?) people can just project themselves to, etc.

    But of course, no single genre of literature has a monopoly on depth and feeling. Literature is supposed to make you feel things, whether it be an existentialist reading, a classic Dostoevsky or a John Green novel. I can personally not like John Green's stuff, but it's not like I'm going to go out and hate everyone who reads his work. In the same way, it's also sad to see some people judging you for liking non-YA lit (because it's not "relatable", and apparently that's deep and ultra-hipster??? and elitist?? where is da logic pls). To each his/her own! *sorry for brainfart*

    1. Dude, I totally agree with you!!! I mean, it's a little annoying how there's so much focus on Mary Sues/Gary Stews (hehe) because sometimes I feel like that's just the writers trying to project themselves into their own fantasies? Which is fine, I guess, and maybe some people don't mind reading that kind of stuff, but personally, I find that kind of writing a little too overindulgent for my taste. But that's not to say that ALL YA novels are like this - I think a lot of YA writers are also amazing because of how well the remember what it was like to be a teenager, and so they write books for young people because they have some ~wisdom~ to impart and because they believe that by writing books for our future leaders, they are participating in changing the world for the better. :) Diana Wynne-Jones (my favorite fantasy writer ever) wrote a lot of books for young people that emphasized on standing one's moral ground, not being a doormat (for lack of a better phrase), and staying true to oneself without seeming too preachy. Her writing helped me figure out a lot of stuff about myself (I'm sure the same goes for a lot of DWJ fans out there, too!). I guess that's the kind of YA that we need, not the weird, badly written, half-smut werewolf novels so prevalent these days. But if you think about it, every generation has their share of bad YA. Remember those "Clique" novels from the early 2000s? What's great about all this is that over time, it's the really good stuff that makes its mark and lasts thoughout the years. :)

  4. I used to read YA (almost) exclusively, but now I'm branching out to other genres since a lot of the books share similar plotlines. It was like reading the same book. Some are just plain stupid that I felt like I was losing brain cells while reading them. Seriously, the dialogue in some books are just hilariously unrealistic.

    Also, the fact that a lot of YA novels are being made into movies now don't really help since they're basically promoting them and then of course, if it sells, more authors will follow the trend (Twilight -> vampires, supernatural creatures, 50 SHADES OF GREY etc.).

    Anyway, while I do hate the current trend of YA novels today, there are still some genuinely good YA novels out there.

    1. I definitely agree with you on how so many YA novels are so similar, it's like reading the same book again and again! And yes, it's frustrating how YA romance novels in particular contain very unrealistic dialogue, plot, and characters, which can breed some equally unrealistic expectations in some impressionable young teens (clearly I am speaking from experience! Haha). And that's unhealthy! However, I also think that the way we perceive stories relies heavily on the way we treat them. If you pick up a book like Twilight with the mindset that it's something to be taken seriously, expecting it to reflect a deeper understanding of the human condition, then you will naturally feel disappointed. But if you start reading it with the mindset that it's just a light read you're taking on for fun and relaxation, knowing fully that it will be unrealistic and at times, shallow, the experience of reading it might be more enjoyable because your expectations are lowered. :) But if you're the type of person who takes all literature seriously - which is great, and very admirable, because it shows how much you respect literature as an art form! - then I suggest you steer clear of certain YA titles that unfortunately, are badly written, shallow, and ubiquitous in bookstores these days.

      I also agree with you about how there are genuinely good YA novels out there. I mentioned it in the article, but if you're a fan of life-changing YA, I highly suggest "Girl" by Blake Nelson! :) Happy reading! :)

  5. There are good and bad sides to YA but i have to say that the good always overshadows. The YA novels these days are filled with a lot of twist and turns and they're steering away from the conventional story plots. I think most authors these days are playing with the hormonally emotional teens and teens-at-heart and using their love for technology and quirky stuff to create a larger fan base.

    Something I've noticed is that most YA novels have a context which mostly involves love stuff but uses real life hard hitting experiences. It's groundbreaking yet conventional. This is what I love about YA novels, they're books you can grow up with :)

    although there is a general trend ( i.e. dystopian, vampire) It's inevitable these days because theyre not much original ideas left. At least the authors add their own twist to it :)

    1. That's a very good point! Making the conventional extraordinary is something that I really appreciate about YA these days -- it's really comforting, and it's fascinating, what kind of things you can do with the things around you. Which sort of makes you wonder how it works in real life, yeah? :)

      What really bugs me, more than anything, is how a lot of readers blow it out of proportion -- like I said in my chat with Niki, there's this whole thing where a lot of people think that some of these books are so deep and so original, when they are, like you said, part of the conventional. It's just a new way of looking at things, right?

      I have to disagree with you on the bit about original ideas: The reason why we think there aren't many left is because we simply haven't thought them up. If we did, well, those wouldn't be original either, right? Just food for thought.