It can’t be avoided that the Young Adult genre of fiction books really appears to have risen over the past few years with Twilight and The Hunger Games being just two of the most recent books that have seen immense success not only in the literary world, but also on the Big Screen as well, which is incredibly impressive.
The funniest, and quite frankly strangest, aspect of the growth around Young Adult fiction is that how much of an impression this literature has on the entire writing community: even Stephen King’s name is regularly found on the covers of YA fiction declaring how much he loves it and Young Adult Authors are often found bigging each other up on book covers.
But, what is it that makes Young Adult books so appealing, not only to teenagers but also to us grown ups too?
As with many things that gain popularity, it’s difficult to say as absolute fact why Young Adult books are popular, but it’s still fun to speculate. Here’s the general thinking:
How many times have you sat and pondered over childhood memories; first love, past friendship, awesome summers and well, yeah you get the picture. We all do it, because we all cling on tightly to those cherished memories of a life so much easier, so much more free and so much more simple.
Young Adult novels capture the pure essence of being young(er), kids having adventures and experiencing all of those things that we remember, or wish we’d experienced. They allow us to take our real childhood and twist it into one that’s perhaps a little nicer – y’know where we managed to beat the bullies and never have a bad hair day, and pimples didn’t insist on growing right bang on the end of our noses!!
They allow us to do all of that, and step away from our grown up lives, either by stepping into the lives we wished we’d led, or into lives that we’re really grateful our childhoods never were.
I don’t know why, but I always tend to find that Young Adult books take themselves a lot less seriously than Grown Up books. Science Fiction doesn’t come with page-after-page-after-page of Scientific explanation that some of us will never be able to understand anyway. Fantasy has depth without the complexities of long descriptions. And imaginations are allowed to run wild.
The reasoning touted is because teenagers are believed, by some, to have short attention spans, so perhaps won’t be able to handle long descriptions and explanations. Perhaps this is true, or maybe it isn’t. What I do know is that a lot of us adults don’t have long attention spans either.
Personally, I can’t think of anything worse than ten pages describing say, a tree and why it’s there including its entire life story from seedling to firewood. Tell me it’s there, that’s fine, but please tell me only the part of it’s life that is relevant to the story, and move along.
Nevertheless, Young Adult Literature isn’t without its bad points:
One thing that has to be said for YA novels is that they are bursting with highly imaginative ideas. Unfortunately, this craving for imagination appears to often heavily overshadow everything else that a book needs to be great:
- A good story
- Brilliant writing
- Actual Talent
- Perhaps most importantly, spelling and punctuation
Some novels, such as The Hunger Games and Harry Potter are fortunate enough to encompass each and every one of these: They start out with an overall good idea, that is laid out into a pretty good overall story, which is beautifully woven together by a talented author who has a real flare for writing. That has all been finished off by the fine-toothed comb of a good Editor.
These novels are the real gems, or Diamonds in the Rough, of the YA world. Sadly, these gems are often overshadowed by a vast majority of YA that gives the genre a bad name. The novels that have a fantastic idea, and that is pretty much where it ends.
In these novels, ideas are always underdeveloped. They are set out, but never explored deeply enough. The story never has any real depth other than the superficiality of life, which is typically the idea of young romance being the most important thing in the world. Characters are thin and unbelievable in a way that reminds us of Disney, and scenarios verge on unrealistic.
The question I really have, is why these books seem to be so afraid of challenging the reader. It’s almost as if they don’t want to scare the reader, or make them think to much. In a way, it’s sort of patronising. It’s like saying that young readers can’t handle real life. So, why do these perhaps unchallenging novels become so popular?
Because sometimes we grown ups kind of like the superficiality of young love, even if it is considerably unrealistic. It reminds us of when life was easier, and the opposite sex really were our biggest worry in life.
If people really want a book that is going to challenge them, then they’re probably not going to read a YA book. It’s sort of like the Easy Listening Channel of the Literary World, because childhood is lighter than adulthood.
It doesn’t matter if we love or hate Young Adult books, because they appear to be here to stay. The moment one popular novel begins to fade away, yet another appears to pop up out of nowhere and we seem to have another new obsession. Is that really such a bad thing?
Reading is meant to be a form of escapism. If that escapism just happens to be unrealistic and superficial, isn’t that what most of us are looking for anyway? If we’re being really honest with ourselves.
What do you think? Do you care that Young Adult novels can appear to be superficial at times, or that quite often they come across unrealistic?