Thursday, September 9, 2010

Y is for YA


Young Adult (YA) literature isn't a new genre, but in the past 20-or-so years it's undergone a radical expansion that looks to continue for some time to come.

Growing up in the 1990s, I read some great Middle-Grade lit: K.A. Applegate's Animorphs, AVI's various historical novels, Brian Jaques' Redwall books... But around 7th or 8th grade, I began to want something more. Longer in length, more complex in plot and character, but still whimsical. I was able to find some books that fit my criteria, but they were few and far between.

Not finding anything of particular interest in the children's section, I started experimenting with Adult fantasy... But, while I don't regret reading them, I definitely wouldn't recommend them to anyone else that age. Sure, they were more 'stimulating'  length and vocabulary-wise, but they lacked relevancy. I needed characters my own age...thinking like I did...facing the same problems...

And following the Harry Potter phenomenon, I finally got my wish! Not only did books increase in length, but the amount of books starring teenagers doubled, tripled, quadrupled! Our libraries and bookstores had to create new YA sections...then move them to separate rooms/areas!

YA books have essentially 2 requirements: Main characters between the ages of 10 and 21, and subject matter consistent with the age and experience of the main character(s). Like Adult Fiction and Children's Fiction, it also spans the genres, offering Fantasy, SciFi, Historical, Contemporary, Horror, Romance, etc. Some common elements in YA books include: School, peer pressure, popularity, coming-of-age, budding romance, facing society, and self-discovery.

Because YA literature often deals with a character's coming-of-age and the terrors of entering society, it's not surprising that it appeals to older readers as well. Whether it's nostalgia for a lost youth, or a love of well-written insightful literature, it's not surprising to find adults grabbing these YA books off the shelves.

So, are you in on the YA train?

Some Y Movies I've Seen:

A Young Y Series:

The Y Font: