Friday, March 30, 2012
Week 3 of YA: All Fluff, No Fiber?
Today, we'll tear into another myth: that Young Adult novels are "all fluff with no fiber." Since YA novels are often marketed to and read by teen girls, they often are considered "poorly disguised romance novels." It's not true.
Okay, sometimes it's true. :) But that's too broad a judgment to pass on all of them.
Realistic novels are are a good place to start. Last week I blogged about a book called Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, a book written to encourage sexually abused teens to talk to someone who can help them. I can't even really describe how important this is, and I'm sure you already know anyway. Sarah Dessen writes fiction for teen girls. Her characters deal with things like anorexia, negligence, abuse, and broken families. Her books often center on "finding self," which is huge for teenagers, especially girls. Another of my personal favorites is A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle. This one deals with cancer, death, life, love. Things teens wonder about. There are many examples of "issue books," which strategically tackle tough topics. For example Cut by Patricia McCormick.
Some novels deal indirectly with these "big" issues through Fantasy stories. In both Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore, the protagonists live in societies that hate them for who they are. They have to deal with that hate and learn to live despite it. Overcoming prejudice. Bam.
One last book, a YA historical novel: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak tells the tale of a girl who lived during WWII in Germany. She hides a Jew in her basement to save him from the Nazis. This story is narrated by Death. It...heavy. And brilliant. And awesome. A bestseller, and a Printz award winner (which I'll talk about next week!).
A word on romance in teen fiction: yes, it's usually there. It's something teen girls are very interested in (no surprise there!). It's usually a subplot to heighten suspense.
Authors use the "YA" genre as a platform to reach teenagers about real issues. Usually, YA authors looooove teens, and want to help them grow. They speak to them by crafting stories to entertain, to provoke thought, and, yes, to fall in love with.