Why do YA books matter?
As a twenty-four-year-old guy, it is perhaps surprising to some that one of my favourite genres is Young Adult Fiction. For many people who dislike the YA genre for whatever reason, that statement goes against what they envisage the typical reader to be (a teenage girl who reads Twilight). The genre is brimming with excellent stories- most I have not had the pleasure of reading yet- but it is also a shining beacon in the publishing industry that seems to be frozen in time with regards to the workforce, and the stories that are published. Here is a blog post that talks about the many plus points of the YA industry.
The YA genre has become the leading light in regards to representation of people from all backgrounds and identities. They are leading the way with more books concerning racial diversity, LGBT characters, mental health issues, female heroines and sexuality than any other genre at the moment. It is undoubtedly the genre that is the most diverse and that discusses real issues that are not given much coverage in other genres.
The genre, as viewed from the outside, receives a snobbish response by some adults who seem to have the viewpoint that every YA author is trying to write the next Harry Potter or Twilight series, and that the readers are teenagers that they view as ‘millennial snowflakes’.
One example of someone with this shared opinion is as follows: “‘Young Adult’ – it says ‘wannabe JK Rowling’, it means ‘born in an iPod world so I don’t understand music (and life) is for sharing'”
Given that the YA genre is closely associated with Children’s and Middle-Grade fiction rather than Adult Trade fiction, the pompous reaction probably stems from the fact that these critics see the books as ‘childish’ and not as eloquently written as an Adult books is. This opinion could not be further from the truth! Not only are YA readers diverse in terms of age range – but the books themselves are written to impeccably high standards. To name but a few; Leigh Bardugo’s fantasy duology-masterpiece Six of Crows, Stephen Chbosky’s famous The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Tom Ellen-Lucy Ivison’s hilarious Freshers. Each of these examples showcases the beautiful writing, enticing storytelling and the diversity of topics that appear in the YA genre. And this is just the tip of the iceberg! I’ve not even mentioned books that definitively explore racial identities, LGBT characters or sexuality. But the point here is that these books abolish the notion that YA books are childish and poorly written. The Six of Crows duology comes across as Game of Thrones meets Ocean’s Eleven, with a diverse range of characters and a thrilling storyline; The Perks of Being a Wallflower concerns the mental health of a high school boy who struggles to deal with a childhood memory as well as attempting to make friends; and Freshers gives coverage to the university experience, loneliness and friendships in a funny and realistic way. As you can see, from just these three books, that the YA genre deals with a wide range of hard hitting issues that are applicable to children, young adults, and adults, as well as creating fascinating stories that more than hold up well against Adult Trade publications.
One thing on social media that has struck me with surprise, concerns the camaraderie of the YA book bloggers on WordPress, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Goodreads. Bloggers across of the globe are championing books they have read across several social media platforms in their attempt to grow their blog, Twitter, YouTube or whatever platform they choose to use; but these channels are also designed to help promote a book they enjoyed reading. They have now become the main marketing and publicity angle for publishing houses who want to target a YA audience and sell a particular book. But the thing that shines through is the friendship and love that is shared amongst the blogging community. Everything from positive comments on a book review, an Instagram photo, or a tweeting on a particular hashtag- the blogging community is a wonderful place, and the YA genre is massively responsible for its success. The Twitter chats #ukyachat #SundayYA #nspBookClub are prime examples of the YA community coming together for their love of literature. I am yet to come across a bookish community that shares the love as much as young adults do.
An aspect where YA leads the way, is in its representation of diversity; from Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, Stripes Publishing’s A Change Is Gonna Come, Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not, to Meredith Russo’s If I Was Your Girl, the range of books tackling twenty-first-century issues is growing every year. The YA community are amazing advocates for such books to be published. Recently a new independent children’s book publisher has been created for the aim of publishing more diverse books, called Knights Of. This independent publisher has grown out of the lack of diversity in the publishing industry, whether that is within the workforce or within the authors that are published. Nevertheless, the rise of diverse books within the YA genre has probably played a part in the personal gamble of setting up a publisher as they recognise that there is a want and need from readers to read books that represent the wide spectrum of humanity.
But the biggest, and most talked out about use of social media by YA bloggers, is in relation to the A Handbook For Mortals controversy. It somehow previewed to top the New York Times YA Bestseller list, knocking off The Hate U Give in the process, and there was a film adaptation apparently being lined up…despite no-one reading it or having heard of it! The YA community saw the previewed list, and took it upon themselves to change that. Not only did the full story of how the author cheated her way to the top of the Bestseller’s list get uncovered, but Angie Thomas remained at No. 1. A Handbook For Mortals has a 1.24 Goodreads Rating..
YA books and the community is something I have only had positive experiences with. I have made some great blogger friends via WordPress and Twitter, and I look out for their reviews, photos and other things that are book related or otherwise. The fact that I am a bit of a minority in terms of YA bloggers – white teenage / twenties girls seem to be the largest share of the audience – doesn’t bother me at all as everyone that I have interacted with has been nothing but kind, enthusiastic and lovely.
I have ended up reading books that I didn’t think I’d read from authors from a variety of backgrounds- that is undoubtedly down to the YA blogging community! The books I have ended up reading have definitely helped to make me a more rounded person, and aware of many more challenges and viewpoints that other people have. This genre has become one of my favourites and through the bloggers that I have come across on WordPress and Twitter- I have discovered new books, and books that have become my favourites.
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