I recently read a great article that explained how the Young Adult genre is going to change the world. For those of you unfamiliar to the category, Young Adult, or YA, is a recent creation stemmed out of the success of books targeting the older teen market (think age 12 to early 20s). It is not “technically” a genre as much as a target audience, and there are many genres within the Young Adult umbrella.
What is YA?
YA really became its own entity with the Harry Potter series and Twilight, but there were many books that came before YA got its own fancy acronym. Books like Anne of Green Gables, The Outsiders, and Catcher in the Rye all deal with teenage protagonists wrestling with real issues.
But it isn’t just teenagers that are drawn to the YA genre.
These books, especially those with older teen characters, tend to tackle very REAL and very ADULT issues. Because of this, the YA genre has a devoted following of adult readers as well. Adults today are a very nostalgic group. We love to re-read those stories that captivated us when we were younger. It is a feeling we want to revisit again and again.
Why I love YA!
This is exactly why I have fallen head-over-heels in love with YA, specifically Science Fiction and Fantasy YA. A science teacher to middle school students, I am naturally a person that is rather “young at heart”. I have always loved reading stories related to teenagers, but I think nostalgia really does play a major role in my obsession. I grew up on the Harry Potter series, waiting in line at midnight book release parties and devouring the books over and over again between classes in high school.
I loved being taken to another world, but a world that is not superficial. Harry Potter still dealt with very real issues of power, discrimination, and even death.
YA Tackles REAL Issues
The themes and lessons learned through Harry Potter were entertaining as well as deeply resonant. The stakes were high, save-the-world high, and it made what you were reading feel like it really mattered.
The protagonist might now just lose their job… the entire world might succumb to darkness! So often teenagers, and even adults, want to feel swept up in something bigger than themselves, and YA fantasy really allows its readers to do that.
I especially love how YA books do not shy away from issues typically avoided in the adult literary genres. Because of that, they have more raw emotional appeal to them. They are not afraid to ask the questions and wrestle with the answers other genres might be afraid to.
Teenagers crave things that are REAL and AUTHENTIC, and the YA genre is delivering. Holden Caulfield constantly denounced what he considered “phony” and today’s YA audience echoes his sentiments.
Give YA a Chance!
So, if you have not given YA books a chance because they are “for kids” or “for teenagers” I advise you to reconsider. Though there are many out there that just deal with the typical seemingly superficial world of teens, there are so many gems that delve deeper into meaningful issues.
I personally enjoy ones with fantastical settings because I love the drama and action of high stakes, the possibility of a magic or power representing something deeper within ourselves, and the crucial messages we are teaching the upcoming generations.
I would be honored to be one of those voices. Someday, I hope I will get to see my own YA fantasy novel on bookstore shelves doing just that!