Why YA? (again): Fear and loathing in YA literature
Last year, there was some brouhaha about the YA Literature label that prompted me to write a defense of YA Lit and sparked a series of posts where many of us – librarians, authors, readers – shared our favorite YA titles and what made them rich, moving pieces of literature.
Fast forward to now. I have been loving and looking forward to the upcoming movie release of Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion. It has zombies, a definite plus in my book. And this is a title – like the works of Daniel Kraus – that has wide age and cross genre appeal. So imagine my surprise when today I became aware of a post at Read Now Sleep Later in which blogger Alathea discusses Marion’s views on having his book, Warm Bodies, labelled as YA. Needless to say, they aren’t pretty.
I think that Alathea discusses the issues really well and I encourage you to read the post. The bottom line is this: YA literature, like all literature, is vast and has a vast array of subject, content and quality. There are supremely fine works of YA literature just as there are dismal examples of adult literature. And when adults disparage the YA label, they are also disparaging the YA audience, as if they are somehow beneath them and not worthy of or capable of a good story.
The teen years are a critical time in identity formation, and teens already feel disrespected and disenfranchised by adults. If adults want teens to transition into the adult years in healthy ways, we need to be their biggest cheerleaders and provide them with opportunities of all sorts, including reading opportunities.
Some authors may think that being labelled YA will cut down on their perspective sales, but as a YA librarian I can assure you that a good book is a good book and if you write one, people will read it. I spend time talking to adults EVERY DAY who are reading YA lit because they recognize the quality in the writing.
Writing YA lit doesn’t cut down on sales or limit your audience, but it does let teen readers know that there are adults in this world who value the teenagers in their lives enough to write quality literature for them. What a profoundly empowering message that is.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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