Monday, December 6, 2010

YA: Beginning the Conversation

Since plunging into YA head first, about a year ago, I have greatly changed my definition of YA.  I used to think it was a fun story about kids on an adventure, ie Boxcar Children, Harry Potter, A Wrinkle in Time.  YA is so much more than that.  It's about the true emotions, problems, situations, and conflicts that teens face everyday: school, relationships, death.  Whether through humor, fantasy, paranormal, history, or contemporary, a YA novel is going to touch some cord of a teen's life.

I'm hardly a teen anymore, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy reading YA (I'm representing it, aren't I?).  A lot of adults love reading YA. Does it make them feel younger?  Is it akin to an old man sitting on his porch drinking lemonade and reminiscing about the good old days in which he had to walk five miles to school up hill both ways?  Or is it just another way for adults to reflect on society?  Another perspective, if you will.

A year ago, I took a YA lit class, thinking it would be an easy A, easy reading.  I had taking a American Children's lit course the year before, so I thought I knew what I was getting into.  After we read Catcher in the Rye (shoot me please), The Outsiders (outdated, let's move on), Chocolate War (interesting, but not my type), we moved into the YA that made me sit up and pay attention.   

Looking for Alaska was my first brush with contemporary YA that didn't make me want to tear my hair out.  It was relevant, poignant, silly, serious and full of geeks, hot girls, bitches, and cliques.  So beautiful I don't even want to get into it here (read it, it's so good).  Learning more about John Green was when I first realized that not all great authors have to be dead, old, or boring.  His Vlogs with his brother were funny and educational.  Really, he's just a geek himself.

Next, I read The Book Thief.  Now, I don't cry at novels or movies (I'm a girl, but I'm broken apparently).  The closest I get to tears is throwing down the book and pacing to get rid of the built up emotions, maybe gaping at the wall, or talking out loud to myself (usually along the lines of ohmygodohmygodohmygod--eloquent, I know).  And I was definitely doing a lot of my not-crying-antics.  Beautiful novel.  Ok, I thought, historical YA, I can dig that.

What sealed the deal?  Dystopian YA.  Yup, you guessed it, I'm a die hard Hunger Games fan.  It had fantasy, technology, screwed up government, screwed up society, danger, adventure, family, love, tension, confusion, death... I can go on and on.  That's what I loved about the book: it had everything.

I've read a butt load of YA since (been reading my Wednesday Reads, haven't you?), and my favorites  have a mix of the above qualities.  Some are heavy in conflicted romance, some in death, others in humor.  It has to strike some sort of cord.  Teens are bombarded with an overload of information every day at school, on ads, on TV, from friends.  They have to sift through all of that information (ADD much?) to get to the stuff that they actually want to know about.  I'm much the same way.  I only left my teen years behind three years ago; I want to get the meat quickly.  Why should I care?  My favorite books make me care.

Ok, so the discussion has begun.  Over the next few weeks I'll take the above list and write a blog post on certain items.  Please chime in with your thoughts.  Want to argue with me?  Please do.  Conflict is how I learn (I do not want scars though please).

Happy writing... or reading... whichever you feel like doing.  In any case, Happy Living!


bibliophile brouhaha said...

Love this post - I love you career choice and wish I had the same foresight when I got out of college. Completely agree on The Cathcer and the Rye, love Hinton's That was Then, This is Now, but I'm the same page with The Outsiders. Adore dystopian - can't wait to hear what you have to stay.

Good luck with your career - great choice!

-Linds, bibliophile brouhaha

J E Fritz said...

Good YA is enjoyable at any age!

Anonymous said...

I'm a big fan of all of these books. I recently discovered John Green (Alaska is the only one I haven't read) and it really turned a light on in my head. He has such a way with finding the inner voices of his characters. Huge fan of The Hunger Games and I read The Book Thief several years ago and immediately announced it as the best book I had ever read. I was surprised to find out it was even YA. I had no idea.

Thanks for sharing!