Today I present to you the second installment in my YA Series. The introductory post can be found here. However, this was not written by me, rather by a wonderful guest writer, R. K. Brainerd. She tackles the idea of why YA needs to be read and the parallels between being a teenager and literature. Without spoiling too much, I bring you the guest post!
Forget Why You CAN Read YA; Here’s Why You Should
Young Adult literature is probably the most popular genre-slash-age-group section out there today. You can find nearly any genre, theme, or issue presented in YA style, from quick, fun reads to solemn, heart wrenching stories.
Yet YA gets a lot of flack. I won’t talk about the overused example that starts with a T and ends with vampire, but many people use it as their prime example to reduce YA to a genre of whiny teenage heroes and crappy love interests. Or, heaven forbid, that YA itself is destroying ‘higher’ literature in the name of stroking teenage egos in what they want to read.
I think when most people remember being a teenager, they remember only the drama and excess hormones. So let’s delve into teenage stereotypes.
Teenagers are dramatic and self-centered.
These pivotal years are key in self-identity. Teenagers constantly change, almost daily, both body and mind. There are constant questions of identity, society, and belonging. It’s scary, it’s often intense, and a lot of times it feels like the end of the world.
*cue stereotypical dramatic teenage voice*
But guess what this means?
Teenagers are often philosophers.
All of this time spent asking these questions means as lot of time spent inward thinking. Think of the popular YA books on the shelves today: you’re going to find them dealing with big subjects like life and death, gender issues, race, sexuality, what society should look like, corrupt governments – the list is endless. Sure, teenagers have a tendency to see in black and white, which will be tempered as age brings wisdom. But with the genre that is both aimed at and written as teenagers, this means that YA as a genre is often trying to tackle the deep issues of life and living.
Teenagers are rebellious.
Teenage-hood is also a period of rejection: rejection of parent’s views, societal views, peer views – even while there’s a desperate search of belonging, it’s a time of further questioning of upbringing and norms.
This means that typically, YA as a genre is pioneering. They deal with issues before they’re ‘comfortable’ to be addressed in adult literature. The easiest issue to point out currently is literature addressing being gay or transgender, particularly in areas where it is forbidden or dangerous to be so. Furthermore, YA stylistically pushes forms, such as writing in verse, or written as emails, online journals, and fan-fiction.
Sure, something might all be silly in the end, but rebellion is how we challenge norms and seek being better.
Teenagers are learning.
Let’s be real, we’re all still learning. We learn lessons about self, the world, other people, until the day we die. But the teenage years are so hyper-focused on this learning reality that the YA genre becomes steeped in it.
Even as adults, YA literature can bring us back to that time of hyper-learning, where we can question. It reminds us to learn, to think, to dream. It lets us feel that again.
Teenagers are insecure.
With all of the questions of life, it’s hard to be secure about anything. In YA literature this results in the opposite occurring: YA is overwhelmingly about empowerment. Think of almost any YA novel – in the end, the hero wins. They defeat the villain and save the world, making it a better place. At the very least, even if much is lost, the world is ultimately just a little better.
We could all use a little empowerment in our lives.
With all of this in mind…
Even while YA often presents in rebellious, dramatic ways, it’s also typically fun and fast to read. YA characters generally have strong voices that are easy to connect with and really get in the character’s head (maybe because a majority of it is written in first person). This makes YA very accessible, no matter the reader.
There are – of course – many other age groups of literature that deal with deep issues of life and living while teaching in pioneering ways. And, of course, there are the bad apples of YA. In the end, YA, like all the others, is inhabited by masterpieces, fun reads, and crappy literature.
But the greatest stories are the ones that touch our deepest selves, where child meets adult, and we dream in our hearts. YA succeeds because it is able to connect child to adult (after all, this is what teenage-hood is all about).
In the end, YA literature is about touching readers in a way accessible to everyone. And it’s in this way that it can and should be read across all ages, where we can be reminded of our inner selves, be empowered, learn, and remember the importance of rebellion and life’s biggest questions.
About The Author:
R. K. Brainerd writes YA and NA in the realm of fantasy, usually with a speculative element. She’s been making up stories since the day she realized she could, and is making her first foray into the published world. She blogs about this and more at awakedragon.wordpress.com, tweets random and helpful things as @awakedragon, and regularly posts pictures of goats on Instagram as Rkbrainerd.