Young Adult books are for kids, right? Wrong. As I got older, I feared that I would have to abandon my love of Young Adult literature for the more mature and sophisticated sections of my local bookstore. Fortunately, this was not the case. Okay, maybe I still get some weird looks when I’m toting a noticeably Young Adult tome around campus. And maybe when I tell people that the books in Lauren Oliver’s Delirium trilogy are among some my favorite ever, I get quite a few confounded stares. But I’ve come to the conclusion that these critics simply do not realize that this rising genre holds real value for readers of all ages.
Young Adult literature often revolves around a young teenage protagonist who inevitably finds him or herself in a bit of a romantic predicament amidst the other drama of their lives. Same old, same old, right? Again, maybe not. The characters in these books are not as simplistic as those who have not experienced them like to think they are. They represent real people, with real problems, in sometimes not-so-real worlds. I mean, who hasn’t experienced boy problems? And I don’t know about you, but Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume taught me everything I needed to know about growing up. YA characters undergo deep character development and every reader can relate to them in some level. The issues that they face are issues that are common to most of our society. They deal with authority, they deal with work and school, they deal with responsibility and making good choices, and they deal with relationships. All readers can see themselves are fitting in somewhere in these novels.
The biggest criticism that I’ve encountered on the world of YA is that the genre features the same story over and over again, and that its readers are not given the chance to grow, both in their vocabularies and in their perception of different parts of the world. Oftentimes though, books like the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Fault in our Stars by John Green, or classics like Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen get excluded from this criticism. These are all classified as Young Adult literature, but because they are so popular in our society, the intrinsic value of their stories is recognized in ways that much of the rest of the genre is ignored in. They deal with the same topics, however. For example, Harry Potter tells tales about courage, young people’s dynamics with authority figures, and even relationships – both romantic and platonic. And Pride and Prejudice is a book almost entirely about all kinds of relationships, their dynamics and how they grow and change over time.
No two readings of a young adult book will ever be the same. They are designed so that the reader’s experience with the characters and the situations changes as their personal life experiences and life situations change. They can teach valuable lessons to and be enjoyed by a reader of practically any demographic. So, young adult fanatics, don’t be embarrassed because you’re “too old” to be reading teenage dramas, be proud that you can experience a world of literature that many people just don’t give a chance.