Here we are in week two of YA Lit class, and I have jumped head first into the pool of reading. I’m not a polar bear, but I am excited to dive into the pool of YA literature. I’m looking forward to this semester of “having” to read each week and “having” to respond to my reading. It is good practice and I really enjoy it.
But, why YA? More specifically, why is reading YA literature so engaging? Why do these books appeal to teens and adults alike? What do YA books teach us about life? about ourselves?
What I Know About YA
YA books are books that are written and marketed for students aged 12-18 – the middle and high school students that we all know (and love). These include these books that we grew up reading (depending on your age: Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley High, Goosebumps, etc.) and the books that teens read now (Hunger Games, Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars, etc.).
YA lit has changed and evolved through time. A Crash Course in YA Lit describes this historical shift in an amazing way. Take a few moments to read through her article because I don’t think I can improve on her history lesson.
Essentially though, we are in a new golden age of YA lit. YA lit is not just relegated to school libraries. In fact, some of the current best sellers, movie franchises, and pop culture phenomena are considered YA.
Now we get to the meat of it. What about YA lit appeals to people of all ages? What makes it so popular? Between Tweeting with my classmates and reading the articles assigned to us, I come to two conclusions. First, YA is about characters. Second, YA is about finding yourself.
Characters are what make a book for me. I love a book where I am drawn into the character’s world, feel their feelings, want to talk to them, cry with them, celebrate with them. Characters who are authentic, mixed up, confused, not just “good” or just “bad”, and multidimensional are characters who appeal to me. YA lit does a great job of writing authentic characters.
Katniss Everdeen. Hazel Lancaster. Augustus Waters. Tris.
These characters are so diverse that I can relate to all of them. They are real to me and their struggles and joys are real.
Secondly, and more importantly, YA is about finding yourself. Now you may be thinking, You are an adult. Adults have it all figured out. You don’t need to “find yourself”! Here’s a secret. Yes, yes I do need to find myself. I bet that there are many more out there still trying to find themselves too.
Remember how I said that I see myself in parts of each character? Remember how I can relate to their struggle, their pain, their joy? Well, I think that is because YA Lit is also a mirror. We inhabit these worlds, these characters’ minds, walk in their shoes and fight their battles. And in the end, we close the book and think about what we have learned about ourselves.
Practicing YA Lit
As we are diving into the next semester of YA reading, I am asking myself what I am good at and where I want to grow.
Strengths – I have read quite a bit of YA lit, especially these last few years. I am pretty confident with YA lit that is popular. I’ve also done extensive reading in the shorter works of YA lit. My favorite genre is mystery, and that is the same in YA. But, I also love dystopia and the adventure stories of Rick Riordan.
Growth areas – As my book club and I discussed this week, we are not really wide readers in YA lit. I tend to stick to the same types of books because I know I will like them. I love that our plan is to read a different genre or style of writing each week. This will hopefully expand my horizons, open the window into some amazing YA lit, and find some additional “favorites” to add to my collection.
Whew! That’s a lot of thinking about why I should explore even more YA literature. What can I explore in the realm of YA? What books would you suggest? Let’s talk below……