Young adult has come a long way. But there will always be those who like to remind YA writers that we musn’t try and sit at the grown-ups table. After all we “only” write for kids.
Why haven’t they figured out that this dismissive attitude only fuels our fire?
I think the mere existence of literature for young people scares some folks to death. Either the books are too liberal and frivolous – full of “inappropriate behavior” or too dark and prone to lead teens to hurt themselves.
I could regale you with stories about adults who I met along the way as I promoted my series, who had no issue declaring they only wanted their young reader to read educational books. But I won’t. Needless to say, most teens (my own teenager included) have a distaste for reading because too often they only have time to read what’s forced down their gullets.
But I digress.
What YA writers get, is teens aren’t aliens who somehow miraculously morph into reasonable adults (and honestly, the actions of our politicians some days has to make most of us question that reasonable part) but individuals trying to find their way along life’s path. And each experience helps them become the adult they will one day be.
YA books don’t teach young adults about suicide, sex, pregnancy and drugs but they merely attempt to address them. While some choose to address the destructive side of the world’s ills, directly, others simply depict lifestyles that include destructive behavior. No matter which path a YA book takes, the general objective is to entertain the reader. You know, just like adult fiction.
The Vermont College of Fine Arts’ Hunger Mountain tackled this topic in great fashion – In Defense of YA – by getting feedback from both YA readers and writers. The feedback from teens may surprise those adult critics who insist teens can’t articulate well or solve complex issues. But for those of us who respect the teen readers, we’re nothing more than proud of these sort of statements:
“What young adult literature does—and adults often fail to do—is acknowledge the intellect of teenagers.” - Manar Haseeb, 17, Garland, TX
“These stories have the potential to make us acknowledge the darkness in the corners of us we didn’t know existed—and, if the timing is just right, provide a light that prevents the shadows from consuming us altogether.” – Emma Allison, 14, London, Ontario
“Dark YA didn’t desensitize me to the problems of the outside world; it connected me to them in so many positive and constructive ways.” - Maggie Desmond-O’Brien, 16, Remer, MN
The readers get it!