Saturday, August 7, 2010

Why Even Big Wigs in Publishing Read YA Lit (and why you should, too)

Here's a sneak peak at an essay that comes out in Sunday's NYT: The Kids’ Books Are All Right by Pamela Paul. I think anyone, YA lover or not, will appreciate this short essay.

I couldn't agree more on why Young Adult Literature is such a great genre and why it's worthwhile for adults to read as well. If you're not into YA I challenge you to read this essay and see if it doesn't change your mind. Here are a couple quotes I liked:

“I think young adult fiction is one of the few areas of literature right now where storytelling really thrives.” Yes! It seems like so much of contemporary adult fiction has forsaken plot. Readers like it when something actually happens! The way a story unfolds and the way it is told are just as interesting as character development, language and issues explored.

Y.A. may also pierce the jadedness and cynicism of our adult selves. A clean and unfiltered perspective can do wonders for one's attitude and view of life's circumstances. Perhaps this is why children seem so hopeful?

In my opinion, childhood is not a phase of life to be forgotten. "I grew up" does not have to mean I must abandon the aspects of childhood, like innocence and curiosity, that made it such a special time of life. "Childish" characteristics can be honed and used in our adult life.

There are times in YA lit when a character freaks out about something, that he thinks is life-shattering (like who sits next to who at lunch), which is actually silly to an adult. But these situations give me perspective on things I think are a big deal. How big a deal is it if I forgot my coupons on double coupon day? How big a deal is it if the vending machine stole my change? How big a deal is it if my husband forgets to pick me up from work? Or if someone cuts me off at an intersection when I have the right of way? Adults blow things out of proportion all the time. We're not that different from teenagers and their little dramas.

So, I think there are plenty of lessons for adults to learn from children's and young adult literature. If nothing else, you'll be in for a good story!


  1. I totally agree. Sometimes adult writers can be so clever that I feel as if they are trying to hard, for example, Michael Chabon. I love his books but man I need a dictionary just to get through them!

  2. I discovered you on the Blogger Hop, and now I have an award for you here:

  3. Pammy pam - Mr. Chabon is very verbose. I read Gentlemen of the Road and it would have been a cool story but the words...holy crap. I'm not in a hurry to pick him up again. Although, his short story collection, Werewolves in Their Youth(not really about Werewolves), wasn't so wordy. Yet, I really didn't care for it. lol.

    Creations - Thanks and welcome!

  4. +JMJ+

    YA was my first love, and I think it shall be my most enduring one. <3

    Along with plot, I think YA still cares about character development. This has something to do with age, of course: young protagonists will have more growing to do. But there is nothing to stop adult characters from changing, too--though you wouldn't know it from many books written for adults. There seems to be the sense, among the writers of the latter books, that the characters are already grown up and don't have to do any more maturing. I think that's quite the cop-out!

  5. I totally agree! YA often shows more imagination than adult fiction. And it does sometimes bring in that reality check that maybe I shouldn't completely freak out over small stuff. I also love the passionate characters that I feel are sometimes missing from books, which I really enjoy, it gets me excited about the things happening as well.

  6. Enbrethiliel - I'd say character development is a huge part of YA. Even secondary characters, like Katniss' mom in Catching Fire, seem to metamorphosis. It makes stories interesting!

    Daisy - I wonder if it's the power of firsts - firt love, first rejection, first sense of "this is wrong/right" - that makes young adults so passionate? I think first encounters with emotional responses can be very powerful. But adults can become passionate, too, and it would be nice to see more passionate adults in comtep. lit.

  7. YA is not my favourite but I do enjoy when it helps me go down memory lane.

    I agree adults overract on issues also.

  8. Very nice post -- made me think. I read a lot of YA, and sometimes, I wonder why a character's reacting a certain way.... and then I remember what I was like when I was a teen. Makes more sense then. :)

    And ... I passed along an award to you! :)

  9. If you're looking for plot, I applaud you. It is time to bring it back. Some of you may like my new release, the first in a series of three. If interested, please visit my blog and leave a comment. Then find out about the book on my website. Thanks!

  10. I don't go out of my way for random YA, but when favorite authors of mine (Neil Gaiman and China Mieville, Cory Doctorow I'm looking at you!) write YA stuff, now THAT I go out of my way looking for, because I'm intersted in anything these guys write. Generally though, I tend to go for the grittier, darker stuff, and sometimes that not really appropriate for YA.

    Re: Chabon's Gentlemen of the Road, I had a tough time getting into it to, and some of the words threw me, but the end really did make it worth it. I think he was going for a certain style with Gentlemen, I didn't think his other novels were such a pain.

  11. Thanks for stopping by on Friday - I'm so glad you did because I'm now your newest fan. Your site is beautiful and I LOVE what you have to say about YA.

  12. I just found you via Booksporling and became a follower :) She gave us both the versatile blog award! Anyhow, thanks for sharing this link. I'm not a huge YA fan but it does make some good points.