Why YA is Important

After a very long hiatus, I am back, sharing random thoughts about my views of reading and books in general.  As always, I have several ideas for posts floating in my head, but at least that gives them time to grow and expand from a single thought into a (hopefully) coherent blog post!

A while back, I read a piece about why YA is not synonymous with teen books.  Now there are fluctuating definitions of what is considered Young Adult – some say it’s anything meant for an audience of 13-18 year olds, while others define it as aiming older, perhaps for 16 and up.  There’s also an emerging trend for “NA” or “New Adult” – books that tackle subjects like being out on your own for the first time.

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Whatever your exact definition, this article mentioned that “teens” find it hard to connect with the characters of “young adult” stories – they aren’t facing the same challenges.  The author pointed to the “Six of Crows” books by Leigh Bardugo, stating that while she enjoyed the story, she didn’t see her own circumstances within their story.

I understand what she was talking about – we want to see ourselves in the stories we read (take it from someone who has a set height attributed to any character described as “short” – no matter what evidence the author may later present, that “short” character stands only as tall as I myself do!)

Yet I think she also misses the point of Young Adult stories – and why I think they are so important.

Young Adult stories put “teenage” characters into “adult” situations.  They are outside of a school environment, and (at least in Fantasy settings), living at a time when they were considered “adult” at an age we would still consider a “teenager”.  I think it is important for teenagers to begin to see their first glimpse into this world.

Many Young Adult protagonists are not living under the direct influence of a parent – to set the stage for these sorts of stories, there’s usually a drastic reason for this – an epic quest away from home, or perhaps the character is orphaned before the curtain rises on the book.

Teenagers reach a point where they believe they, too, can survive the realities of the outside world without the guidance and support of their parents.  They strain at the boundaries in place for them, sure that they can make it on their own.

Cue stories about “teenagers” who would love to have that support.  Sure, they might have some epic adventures, but there is a thread of the wisdom that they have not yet gained that would help them on their journey.

To go full circle back to Six of Crows, Inej has a wonderful introspective bit in the very first chapter about how she sounds like the “little old grannies” sitting on their porches championing care and caution instead of rashness and recklessness.  She realizes that there probably is a reason they have survived to rock on their front porches – by practicing exactly what they preach.  While she doesn’t include this in her internal monologue, there is a thread through the story that she must be the cautious one, the one to remind her other “young adult” friends of the dangers and pitfalls they face.  What might any of them have given to be spared some of the hardships they faced if they only had someone looking out for them?

Which Six of Crows also fully develops with the appearance of Jesper’s father, to check on his son when he had received no word from him.  Suddenly, he is a valuable support, lending comfort and stability in a world that is rapidly tumbling down around their heads.

So I think Six of Crows is exactly the type of story “teenagers” bridging that gap to “young adulthood” should read.

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2 thoughts on “Why YA is Important

  1. I think books are written and have been written to let us see into a different world, whether it is YA or classics or some other genre. If all we read about is what we know, what our friends know, what we are experiencing then we don’t grow – and sometimes you find inspiration in the most unexpected of places.

    Liked by 1 person

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