Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Young Adult Fiction? Heck YA!

5:44 AM

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There’s this article that did its rounds on the Internet a few months ago called “Against YA,” where the author was saying things like adults should feel ashamed to read things that were written for children. Though it’s important to take the opinions of others (especially those on the Internet) with a grain of salt, there was a part of me that was maybe a little bit offended by what this woman was saying. Why is it so bad to read things that are meant for younger audiences? It talks as if teenagers aren’t nearly as mentally capable or can’t have profound, deep experiences “like adults”.

I’m 19-years old, kind of far from what is known to be a “young adult,” and I refuse to be ashamed of liking YA literature.

The common presumption of YA literature is that it refers to the more modern books, the John Greens, the Suzanne Collinses, the Veronica Roths because it’s what’s trendy. I’ve read tweets and status updates of people who claim that they don’t like or approve of YA literature because its storylines are the same, are unrealistic, or have extreme expectations of women. Although I will agree that some books can be unrealistic, have extreme expectations of women, and can ride the trend too much (that vampire/dystopian trend is insane), generalizing YA, as a whole, to be all of those things – and thus very terrible literature – is unfair.

Because there is good YA literature out there. There’s the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling, which deals with death, betrayal, and profound friendships. There’s Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, which deals with problems such as being self-conscious, adjusting to new places, and growing up. There’s Paper Towns by John Green, a book solely dedicated to crushing the manic pixie dream girl trope.

Admittedly, it is quite common in YA literature for the authors to place the teen protagonists on such a high pedestal, with them being so poetic, intelligent, and insightful. Though now I’d say that I probably was not poetic, intelligent, or insightful AT ALL when I was 15, I can safely say that I felt like I was. Perhaps this is why when we read YA, we feel so much for the characters and their struggles: we find ourselves within these characters. Perhaps YA is a mirror of how teenagers or younger people in general feel and perceive themselves. Because let’s admit it, sometimes we forget.

We can easily forget what it’s like to be 17 when we turn 18, or 13 when we turn 14. We don’t notice it, but we act differently because we are aging, because we are coming of age. That’s what YA is generally about, anyway: coming of age. We sometimes forget what it is to be a kid or to feel a certain way and end up brushing it aside. And when we get even older, we tend to brush away what much younger people feel as if their struggle and sadness is “no big deal.”

What I’m getting at is that maybe the person who wrote that article forgot all of that. Maybe she forgot that 1) there is actually good YA out there and 2) that YA is an important tool in understanding others, and not just teenagers. Though it is “written for children,” I find myself relating with and connecting with younger characters. And I think even adults are capable of having such profound connections to teenage narrators.

Perhaps judging literature shouldn’t be about the language that was used, the metaphors, the level of “cultured” the read is, or the audience it was written for. Maybe an indication of good literature is the connection a reader can have with the book. Because what good is finishing a book and ending up feeling nothing?


Article by Arianna
Art by Sam

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arianna spends way too much time watching anime and america's next top model. she is often seen sporting the eyebags and bored look, otherwise known as insomnia chic. additionally, she also makes short films for fun and plays ukulele/melodica for a band. you can find her here: vimeo or soundcloud.
Sam is an art major whose motives are insane, one should also note how her flow is not great, okay. She awaits the day that people will finally get her pop culture references. At the moment she relies on spontaneous naps, mango banana shakes, and her Nokia phone to keep her going. Oxford commas are her jam.

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