What is it about YA?

I no longer shop the junior’s section at Macy’s. I’ve forgone Forever 21 in favor of the sale rack at Ann Taylor. I tune into HGTV instead of the CW and prefer a sleek, quiet lounge to a bumping night club.

But I still read young adult (YA) novels.

It doesn’t matter that the heroines are half my age; I love the urgency of the story lines, the untempered emotional lives of the characters, and the easily digestible themes.

That said, there’s something uniquely meaningful about the complex struggles, moral ambiguity, and deeply scarred characters inhabiting adult fiction.

Here’s an example:

At the end of May, I picked up Dan Simmon’s award winning sci-fi novel Hyperion. A book full of glorious prose, unexpected subplots, and intelligent ideas, progress was slow but rewarding.
Then an email arrived from the library. After three months on the hold list, Divergent, a YA dystopian novel by Veronica Roth finally awaited me. I set aside my half-finished copy of Hyperion and bustled over to check it out.

Downing pages whenever I had a chance, I finished Divergent in three days (not a big feat, I know, for you speed-readers, but a rare accomplishment in my realm of existence). Needless to say, the book was good—fast paced and well plotted. Moreover, it was effortless. But I guess it should be considering it’s written for kids 12-18.

Though the book was not as good as some of my other YA favorites, I promptly became 124th on the hold list for book two of the series, Insurgent

YA is definitely hot right now. When I pitched my own book to a publisher at the Las Vegas Writer’s Conference in April, he asked, “Is is YA?” When I  said no, he asked, “Could it be?”

As much as I enjoy YA, I’m not about to jump ship and join the ranks of pubescent fanatics wearing team Edward/Jacob/Peeta/Gale/Whoever shirts (but, if you must know, it would be team Edward all the way). For me—and perhaps it is my age—most of these books are but mildly profound.

So I continue to trek forward with Hyperion. When I read exquisite lines like “they watched the red sun hang like a a tethered balloon on the edge of evening” or “their earphones ping with the sounds of particles born in the belly of dying stars” I know the extra effort of great adult fiction is well worth it.


5 thoughts on “What is it about YA?

  1. I often ask myself that–what is it that that keeps me happy reading young adult books, given that I need to for my job, it’s still my favorite reading. Yes, “fast paced and well plotted” make it enjoyable, but there is also something more that works for me. I wonder–is it something about the subject matter being important, the growth of characters, or something hopeful in reading if only as a cautionary tale?

    • You’re definitely right. Your comment got me thinking more about it. We don’t have nearly as much experience or the perspective to draw upon when we’re young. So these choices and obstacles seem all the more monumental. And while teenagers can only guess at what it’s like to be 40, we’ve all been 16 and can relate to the angst, awkwardness, urgency of those teenage years.

      Our teenage/young adult years seem to brim with more potential than any other time in or lives. Whether that’s actually true or not (and I suspect not), it’s fun to relive those dynamic times with characters of YA. The do undergo so much growth, and hopefully inspire us all, whatever age, that growth is possible for us too.

  2. So glad you’re enjoying Hyperion! I might have to check out Divergent though 🙂 I too enjoy YA. I think it’s the difference between a book meant to entertain versus a book meant to inspire/provoke thought/challenge etc.

    • There is a big difference between book meant to entertain vs those meant to inspire. And books of both type can be found in YA as well as adult fiction. Of course the best books, regardless of genre, do both – inspire and entertain.

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