Thursday, August 24, 2006

Do You Read 'Young Adult' Fiction?

According to freelance writer Katie Haegele, more adults are reading young adult fiction. Some of the readers interviewed for this Philadelphia Inquirer article find the endings of YA novels more satisfying than those offered by authors of adult literary fiction. What do you think? What are some of your favorite young adult titles?

I think that some of my colleagues, who regularly read and recommend "teen" fiction, may quibble with a few of Haegele's assertions (about the "fluffiness" of the books or the "newness" of the young adult fiction movement, for instance). Stay tuned...

Regular readers might be surprised to find out that I am a Children's and Teen's Librarian since I post on here about the adult titles I have enjoyed. Working with children and teens I read a lot of children's and young adult titles. Some, I hate to admit, are "fluffy" reads but you'll find many that are not...from those Harry Potter books (Yep! The early books are considered children's novels and the latest ones are found in the Young Adult section on the library...)to books like Angela Johnson's First Part Last, which explores how Bobby's life changes forever when he becomes a teenage father and must care for his adored baby daughter.

A lot has changed since we were teens. Gone are the books we remember, replaced with books full of ideas and plots often found in adult titles. These young adult titles range from books that address the "new" world these teens live in to fantasy books that can be an escape. Most of them are well-written and wonderful reads! Try one today!
As a former Young Adult (YA) librarian, I feel that YA is more of a target demographic than a genre. However, that being said, one thing that I found to be true among YA books that I have read is that there is usually (but not always) an element of personal growth or coming of age. The characters are usually teenagers, and you can usually guess the target age by subtracting a few years from the age of the main character(s).

With the possible exception of westerns, I cannot think of a genre that is not represented in the YA market. Many of the books are great, although there is some "fluff" out there. It may be unfair to compare it to literary fiction, since there is quite a bit of "fluff" in the adult shelves as well.

It's not surprising to me at all that many adults are finding out about YA and loving it. There is an ongoing fascination with youth in our culture, as well as a growing hyperextension of the teen years into college and beyond. One only needs to look at television (WB network shows, Adult Swim on Cartoon Network, etc.), summer blockbusters, the manga craze, etc. to see mirrors of adult interest in YA materials of all kinds--not just books. And why not? They're high quality (mostly), short (also mostly) , and have lots of flash and at least a little substance.

YA is about teens and their interest regardless of genre. I think it's good to see what some of those interest are and to see some of the things that may be in their teens lives, like it or not. Don't be surprised to find sex, drugs, or a large variety of social issues along with large doses of self discovery and personal growth. Reading what your kids are reading (and in some cases living) is a great way to come around to discussing things that your kids may want or need to talk about. Or it may just be a great way to discover new authors.

YA is above all not adult-lite. The quality is there if you want to look for it, and you don't have to look hard. Newbery, Printz, and National Book Award winners are good places to start. The common themes are often those of coming of age and self discovery which aren't bad to visit even if you're over 18. And who doesn't like to look back at those wonderful, horrible years of young adulthood?
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