If all genres are equal, then in the literary world, some are more equal than others.
I say this lightly, though I don’t think it’s untrue. Today, throughout communities of readers, some genres are taken more seriously than others. Whilst literary fiction is viewed as powerful and worth reading, especially books that are littered in stickers which show that they’ve won important awards, other genres are seen as less worthy attention.
One of these is YA. Whilst I continually see reviews for Young Adult literature populating the stream of blogs that I follow, in real life, I’ve noticed that it is often looked down upon, not as serious as others.
It’s not hard to see why.
Why should we want to read books with brief writing styles discussing the emotions of teenagers in often completely unrealistic situations?
Well, if that’s your view of YA, then maybe it needs a slight readjustment.
The Purpose of Reading
I suppose in any discussion about what makes a good book or a good genre, we have to come back to the question of what the purpose of reading is. Personally, there’s a couple of answers to that question.
I mostly read three types of books.
Some books are defined by the way that they teach you something. Non fiction books for me fulfill this description. I usually have a couple of non-fiction books on the go. At the moment, that’s a few books about poetry and one on apologetics that I am reading incredibly slowly. This is the part of reading that I find hardest but often the most rewarding; learning new things is an important part of this.
Others are ‘literary’ texts. Classics. Modern classics. Plays. Again, this is harder but equally rewarding. I’m currently trying to read Midnight’s Children and I’m about to start Vanity Fair.
Still important, however, there are texts that we read solely for pleasure. Often, they can be read in a few days or less at great speed and are simply enjoyable because of how they are written. Occasionally though, I read books for pleasure that stay with me for days and weeks and that I find are just as powerful as other types of books.
This for me is YA.
If one of reading’s purposes is for pleasure, then surely YA is a good example of how we can dive into this.
‘Good Bad Books’
George Orwell wrote an essay in which he said that ‘good bad’ books are incredibly important. These are books that don’t pretend to be ‘literary’ but are well written and have interesting plots that grip readers.
Perhaps, YA fills this mould quite nicely. The plots move fast (to fit our apparently very short attention spans) the writing styles are often experimental. Emotions are portrayed, allowing for maximum catharsis.
YA doesn’t claim to always be literary. But it does create new trends. After all, at the forefront of movements that are seeking a rise in diverse books, YA often has a firm residence. Why? Well, being a teenager and knowing more than a couple of other teenagers, it seems that our generation is always seeking change.
We want books that look at racial inequality, that question how we see the world. YA does this in a simple way. It isn’t complex, just looks at the best and the worst of human nature. In our formative years, it allows us to question the way we think in a very simple environment.
Learning From The Simplistic
Overall, I think I’ll keep on coming back to YA even as I slowly inch out of my teenage years. It’s a crazily addictive genre, providing simple pleasure whilst still educating us and changing the way we see the world. Though it can be dismissed as ‘non-literary’ or ‘too emotional’ or in stronger language not any good, it’s a stepping stone between the shallow water of children’s literature and the deep end that is adult literature.
Overall, I think I’ll keep on coming back to YA even as I slowly inch out of my teenage years. It’s a crazily addictive genre, providing simple pleasure whilst still educating us and changing the way we see the world. Though it can be dismissed as ‘non-literary’ or ‘too emotional’ or in stronger language not any good, it’s a stepping stone between the shallow water of children’s literature and the deep end that is adult literature.Tweet
It’s not designed to be serious all the time.
Sometimes it’s just for reading a throw-away book.
In my opinion, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.
And so, onto my next YA book…
Do you like YA literature? If not, what are your main reservations? Will you try to read some more?