Sunday, April 20, 2014

Why I Love YA Fiction (And Why You Should Too)

I officially stopped reading YA novels when I was thirteen years old. I was sick of reading about homecoming, first love, and cafeteria food. That summer, I plunged head first into adult novels, starting with Stephen King. I distinctly remember lying in bed, binge-reading IT, and feeling very, very mature (also, slightly spooked).

Fast forward to my junior year in college. I was living in a very small town, and had an even smaller bookstore budget. I hit the local library, and within six months had read almost every contemporary novel on the shelf. In desperation, I turned to the YA section.

And what I found was a revelation. Yes, there were still novels about homecoming, first love, and bad high school food. But the children's librarian has also managed to sneak in daring, subversive novels. It was here that I discovered Francesca Lia Block and her wonderful Weetzie Bat books. I read Nancy Farmer's pivotal Annie on my Mind. I fell in love with Sonya Hartnett and David Almond. 

It didn't stop there. I'm constantly finding YA novels that push boundaries and ask thought-provoking questions about societal norms. Is it a coincidence that dystopian fiction has found a cozy niche in YA? I don't think so. The Hunger Games is an entertaining, fast-paced read about an alternate-reality civilization. It's also an exploration on war, violence, and reality entertainment. 

YA novels take risks that, for the most part, I don't see happening in adult fiction. NOT that I don't love adult fiction, I could blab on and on for days about books I adore. But sometimes I wonder if the limitations on graphic sex and violence in YA fiction opens up the possibility of richer material.

So go on, plunder the YA bookshelves. You'll be pleasantly surprised. 

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