I spend most of my time interacting with other librarians and writers, often of the teen/young adult variety, so I sometimes forget the skepticism that surrounds the “value” or “credibility” of young adult literature. A recent post on The Hub, the Young Adult Library Services Association’s blog about teen books, followed by a conversation with a friend who didn’t read YA but loved my recommendation of Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy, reminded me that there are still a lot of YA skeptics out there.
So I’m going to pull out my soap box for a minute (something I do so rarely that it was gathering dust beneath discarded drafts of manuscripts) to address those nay-sayers. First of all, young adult is not a genre. Just as “children’s” books vary from Good Night Moon to The Mark of Athena to Bud, Not Buddy and “adult” books range from A Game of Thrones to The Cuckoo’s Calling to Fifty Shades of Gray, “young adult” novels span an array of genres and storylines. YA does not mean Twilight just as romance (or even erotica) does not mean Fifty Shades. Like books geared towards other age groups, you’ll find the good, the bad, and the “how did this ever get published?”.
Some of the best writing and storytelling I’ve encountered has been in young adult novels; and I’m not the only one who thinks so. In 2012, Time magazine named John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars the best book of the year. The Hunger Games , The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Divergent have all been made or are being made into movies. And members of the book club I run at the library, who range in age from twenties to eighties, unanimously agreed that Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief was one of the best books they’d ever read.
So what is it that turns people against YA literature? Is it the belief that YA is all vampires, werewolves, and sappy love stories? Or the belief that books written for teens can’t be “edgy” enough? (To you, I recommend Ilsa Bick, Mike Mullin, and Elizabeth Wein.) I’m not trying to turn anyone into a YA reader; I just wish more people were aware of the range and depth of YA novels out there.
As a librarian, I’ll judge you more if you tell me you don’t read than if you tell me E.L. James is your favorite author. I’ll even point you to E.L. James read-alikes without batting an eye. (Incidentally, Sylvia Day ought to be giving librarians royalties for directing Fifty Shades fans her way.) All I ask is that you give my reading preferences the same respect. And if you’re looking for a good book, YA or otherwise, let me know!