Let’s Hear It For the (Kids and) Teens

I read an article today trying to tell me that most of the good, worthwhile books labeled Young Adult are actually for adults. Because books “really” for teenagers are easy and cheesy and ultimately forgettable.

I am not going to name that article or even the venue on which it was posted. I’m not here to drag names or establishments through the mud. I am here to stand up and give my viewpoints on things I think need saying, to defend things that need defending.

And so, allow me to say: No. Most Young Adult fiction is not grown-up fiction in disguise. YA fiction is fiction written about teenagers for teenagers- so if a book is YA, it is YA and meant for teenagers. Period.

I think the confusion here is that most YA fiction is attention-grabbing and “unputdownable” and deep and dark and dirty and unveils important themes and holds universal truths and makes you think like you haven’t since your school days and feel in a way usually reserved for “real life.” Most YA fiction is good fiction by amazing writers, and it seems that some adults are upset that good fiction and amazing talent is being “wasted” on teenagers.

And so, allow me to present my universal truths regarding this topic:

1. It should not be a problem to admit that literature for young people is good. Is great. Is often just as good as, if not better than, adult fiction. The people writing it are good, great, just as good, in fact, as any other writers- so why wouldn’t their masterpieces be the same?

2. That said, our good, great, best literature should be geared toward children and teenagers. They, after all, have the most to reap from it and the most potential to put forth from the lessons gathered. Isn’t that the goal of childrearing, after all?

3. Drop the stigma. Adults scoff at so much meant for and created by youth (One Direction, “bae”, high waisted shorts and crop tops, selfies and doing it for the vine…), so trying to steal YA as our own or treating books “really” meant for teens as lesser is just taking away the one thing most people would agree teens should be into: reading. Let the kids have their books, please.

4. Read YA with pride, no matter your age. We’re all young at heart, we’ve all been teenagers, we all still have something to learn at our particular stage in life. Once we acknowledge this, we can all enjoy YA together and that is the world I want to live in.

I am a youth services librarian, a scholar of all literature, and I write (you guessed it) Young Adult fiction in my free time. I feel qualified to make grand statements defending this category (not genre) of literature and for it to mean something.

It may go without saying, but I’ve read a lot of books in my life. And some of the best books I’ve ever read? Young. Adult. Fiction.

YA is what it is and it’s here to stay. Get over it and get into it.

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