Thoughts About Young Adult Fiction REVISITED

Young adult (YA) fiction: This is a subject I’ve been wanting to revisit for quite some time. After spending part of this past week reading a favorite, Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl, I felt that now is just as good of a time to finally write about this topic again, after previously writing about it over five years ago. After all, thoughts and opinions about certain subject matter can change overtime, the more you learn and grow. In the case of YA fiction, my thoughts and feelings towards it have definitely morphed.

Having read over my original post about it, it’s wise to note that quite a few of my thoughts from back then remain the same. I believe it is very true that one of the reasons why YA fiction is so popular is that the characters are experiencing certain emotions for the first time in their lives, and so everything is felt so intensely. I also believe that the writing in many YA novels remain to be too simplistic; so much to where I can breeze through reading one in less than a week. As a result, my belief still holds on how if you’re someone who regularly reads YA fiction and you’re over the age of 18, then there should be a balance in your palate between YA fiction and fiction actually targeted for your age demographic.

With that said, I have also noticed a stark difference between then and now. One of them being, why did I think then that A Moment’s Worth was a YA novel? If you’ve read it, then it should be clear as day that it’s not. On a more relevant note, I realize that maybe I was so discouraged by YA fiction back then due to how many of them were written by white authors. Face it – I was quoting John Green in that original post! Also, that was written right around the time #WeNeedDiverseBooks was established.

Now, over five years later, there are so many more YA novels written by people of color available all over the place. While they still remain stylistically breezy to read through, it should be no surprise that they’re much more nuanced, as they capture experiences that you otherwise wouldn’t have gotten from reading one by a white writer. I can see why I’ve read more YA novels within the last two years than before, all the while maintaining a balance in reading novels targeted for my age demographic.

I say all this, ironically after reading a YA novel I grew up on, written by a white male author with white characters. But I think there’s another side to my hesitation towards YA novels apart from those who used to dominate the market. I get irked by adolescence because my teenage years were quite crappy. My anger was out of control and did not help that I was surrounding myself with emotionally toxic people, at an emotionally toxic high school. Reading books meant for and about teenagers nowadays gives a glimpse on how a. it’s not (and it wasn’t) all that bad and b. experiences of being a person in that time in life can vary greatly.

Looking back on how my thoughts and feelings towards YA fiction has changed over the years, I thank John Green for igniting my personal dialogue about it, but I more so thank Nicola and David Yoon, Edwin Peng, Sarah Kuhn, Jamie Ford, and more for morphing and expanding it.

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