Thoughts From the Morning Commute – The Young Adult Genre

jacksonpearceAs I read through some articles this morning, I ran across a great video called YA haters by Jackson Pearce which was a video response to some ridiculous remarks by the New Yorker, Entertainment Weekly, and The Atlantic about the young adult genre. I have embedded the video in this post so you can enjoy it as well. Jackson Pearce is an up and coming writer, who has her debut novel, As You Wish coming out in August 2009 (and is currently available for pre-order.) I really enjoy Jackson’s sense of humor and quirkiness, and have browsed a few of her other videos as well. Maybe I’ll have to turn Denny into my camera man and start V-logging too. I’ll get Phoenix to play me because she likes to pose for the camera. (All right, already. . . I digressed.)

So, of course, on my way to work, what do I think about? The young adult genre and the opinions and perceptions from the outside. Having long been a fan of young adult literature, as well as writing it, I am sometimes taken aback by some of the statements of people who consider the genre to be less than. My thoughts immediately flew back in time to reading Little Women and being completely immersed in the March family triumphs and tragedies. Louisa May Alcott inspired me, through her characterization of Jo March, to want to write my own stories. I know that I am not alone in this. While Little Women is a heartwarming tale, does heartwarming automatically make it less than? Would we have missed out on some of the best writers of today had there been no Little Women to inspire? I could go into example after example of young adult books which are considered classics and a must read. Some of my favorites are Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I understand that Tom Sawyer is a much more light-weight story than Huckleberry Finn, but I happen to enjoy Tom Sawyer more because I identified with Tom a little more, and I like mischief makers in my stories. Another favorite is Dickens’s Oliver Twist.

While I have focused on the early classics of young adult literature, the list doesn’t stop there (and I am very tempted to keep naming titles, but will stop – otherwise I’ll never be done with this post). There is an important gap between children’s books and adult literature, and young adult books fill that gap. Children’s books are highly colorful, with few words and lots of illustrations. This helps capture the attention of the child and assists them in imagining the action, thoughts, and feelings of the characters in the story. The next step is to have stories without all of the colorful illustrations and more words to describe the action, thoughts and feelings of the characters in the story to allow the reader to initiate the imaginative process.

Children usually love books, and smart parents encourage this love as it gives them a basis upon which to build for their education. However, as the pictures start falling away, so do the readers. Young adult books serve the purpose of keeping the young reader hooked and growing their love of reading. Without young adult books to provide characters and story lines with which the reader can identify, will the reader search out books as an adult? Without readers, is any written work important?

There are two reasons people read:

  1. To obtain information.
  2. To be entertained

As far as point one is concerned, it contains all of the manuals, how to books, news articles, internet blogs on a topic, and so forth. The reading to obtain information is primarily non-fiction in nature. For point two, in addition to some non-fiction, such as memoirs, the bulk of the reading activity is in the fiction realm. Young adult books are simply stories which have a protagonist in the young adult age group. Some of the stories are fairly straightforward, however, some story lines become very complex, the same as you will find in adult fiction.

Since I read to be entertained in my leisure hours (few and far between) and read to help my mind focus at night to help me fall asleep, I will continue to read young adult fiction. I think some very exciting work is coming out of the young adult genre, and enjoy this genre along with many others. I write young adult fiction because those are the characters that keep coming to me with their stories. While not entirely true, I like to say that I don’t think I’ll ever be old enough to write adult fiction. My claim is not that I write great literature (sounds a little stuffy to me), but that I write an entertaining tale, which is something I value pretty highly.

If you’ve made it down this far, listen to what Jackson Pearce has to say. She’s quite entertaining. Enjoy.

LK Griffie
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