In the last 8 to 10 years young adult literature has grown tremendously and has become part of popular culture. I suppose we can credit this growth largely to the adaptations of R. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series as well as Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight into films. These films proved that YA Literature not only appealed to teens but also to adults of different ages, genders and race. Some critics are even arguing that we are living in the second Golden Ages of Young Adult Literature. (The first happened in the 70s, but more on that some other time.) And yet ever so often the same people who rush out to watch the next Hunger Games or Divergent instalments are the ones who frown at adults reading these books. Double standards much?
I, myself am a 23-year-old female of colour who would choose young adult literature above any other genre. I peruse the YA a section in the bookstore like a boss, and ever so often I see another adult peeking sneakily at the YA books and smiling furtively when they realise that they are not alone.
So what is it about YA that is so appealing to adults? What is it that YA has to offer that Adult Fiction does not? And why are there still adults who stare at you like a crazy person when to venture into the YA section?
Quite honestly there just too many answers and opinions for me to cover them all, in fact personally only have a few of them to offer you.
Coming of Age
We could argue that YA has become popular amongst adults and teenagers alike because it so perfectly portrays that “coming of age” stage within your life where you have absolutely no idea what is happening around you and every decision you make is really nothing more than a gamble. If you really think about it, is that not what we do most of the time as “adults” trying our hand of “adulting”? I personally battle with this every day, juggling a full-time job while studying and managing my reading and writing. It’s all a big gamble, and I have no idea what I am doing and reading YA literature has made me realise that it is ok to feel like a 15-year-old stuck in an adult body. This “coming of age” stage never really ends does it?
Pushing Boundaries and Open Mindedness
Another reason is that YA is able to cross the boundaries that have been set and held so tightly be by other genres. YA is in a place where it is growing so immensely and becoming so diverse, with regards to gender and race. The sub-genres of LGBT are growing in diversity and popularity. We find that YA authors are pushing the boundaries of what was once thought to be “children’s literature”. These authors are not afraid to write about the real issues that teenagers and even adults are facing. Whether it be bullying at school or work, abusive relationships, dealing with sexuality or simply being socially anxious and feeling like you don’t fit in. These issues are dealt with in YA and are relatable to almost anyone. So what if the main character is 16? Reading about these issues through the eyes of a teenager can really be an eye opener. Teenagers tend to view things with a more open mind than an adult who are set in their ways. It is a great reminder to check our way of think and to open up to new and better ways of thinking.
So when someone asks, “Why are you reading a children’s book?” I have to stop myself from rolling my eyes and simply say that there is a lot we can learn from the youth. Either that or I could childish stick my tongue out at the idiot who hasn’t picked a book since high school.
For the next few months, I would like to discuss YA literature and its place within the literary canon and popular culture. I truly think that YA literature is important especially with regards to discussing diversity within the representations of gender, sexuality, race and femininity. Hopefully, I’ll be able to post a blog a week focusing on different issues and topics within YA.