Happy Thursday, bloggers. For today’s post, I wanted to discuss young adult literature, in general.
I’ve noticed that many YA lovers tend to refer to YA as a genre, often including it in their reading preferences as separate from romance, fantasy, or other artistic categorizations used to describe the content, tone or aesthetic within a book.
I want to share with you why I avoid calling YA a genre. This has my “librarian” philosophies written all over it, so that will be the main context of my reasoning.
YALSA considers the young adult age range to be from 12-18. But this varies significantly among individuals (some think young adulthood goes beyond 18 and maybe even starts younger than 12, depending on the person). In my young adult literature class, my peers and I continuously discussed how young adulthood varies from person to person and how it is a period of extreme change mentally, emotionally, physically, sexually, and spiritually. Young adulthood generally consists of significant coming of age moments and “firsts”–first relationship, first kiss, first sexual experience, getting your driver’s license, experimenting, getting into college, etc.
Though the boundaries are blurry, literature designated as “young adult” are targeted for that age group. This is important because it means that there is a special collection of literature dedicated to young adults–it’s for them. Young adults place a lot of value on privacy and independence, while still having to depend on some adults in their lives for guidance and other forms of support. Young adults are learning about what belongs to them–their choices, their lives, their identities.
Young adult literature does not only feature characters that are young adult themselves, but characters who are truly experiencing “young adulthood” in all its glory and sloppiness. Teens deserve to read about other young adults like and unlike them, who may be facing similar struggles and trials but in different ways.
Can young adult literature belong to those outside the age group? Of course it can. Anyone can read, enjoy, identify with, and value young adult literature. But I do think referring to “young adult” as a genre–as if it is separate from other genres–is taking something away from that age group.
Young adult literature, like adult books and children’s books, can be sub-categorized into various genres–fantasy, romance, horror, science fiction, non-fiction, historical, and the list goes on.
I am very defensive for young adults because I think they are a very underestimated and very underappreciated group that deserves literature that is written for them and to them.
This, again, is not to say that YA isn’t for anyone else. I am almost 25 and still consider myself a young adult, but many might say I’m technically outside of that age group. But that doesn’t mean I can’t still love and connect with young adult literature as an “adult.” Like many of you, much of what I’ve read that is young adult resonates with me deeply.
But I do think recognizing young adulthood as an age group and not a genre recognizes a very important and special period of time in the human experience which is extremely personal and unique to each individual.
I love young adult literature because of what it serves for young adults. I usually prefer reading young adult literature over children’s and adult literature because I find young adulthood experiences to be much more fascinating. I also think young adult themes continue to amplify within us even as we grow older because that time of emerging independence is so thrilling and nostalgia-worthy. Young adult books remind us that it’s okay to be messy and confused and uncertain of the future–it accepts you where you are in life, regardless of age or experience. Young adult literature acknowledges how strong and how powerful young people are–that their opinions matter and their voices deserve to be heard. But of course, I could go on and on and on about how valuable young adult literature is to me personally.
I’m very interested in hearing your thoughts. What are your thoughts on “young adult literature?” When you say that you “love” or “hate” young adult literature, what does that mean to you?
Imagine being a teenager and finding out that your section of the library was being erased or merged into the children’s or adult section. How would that make you feel?
Happy reading, everyone!