Thursday, November 10, 2016


I was approached by a friend working on her MFA thesis to comment on Young Adult literature. She asked me to answer a few questions. This is a topic close to my heart and I answered at them at some blog-worthy lengths. So today I begin my five part blog on YA MFA Q&A where I share my thoughts.

The Questions:

1. What does the term "young adult literature" mean to you as an author?"

1. What does the term "young adult literature" mean to you as an author?"

The genre of “young adult” did not exist when I was young. It is a recent invention, a new flavor that now occupies the space between what used to be called “children’s books” and “adult.” When I was in school there was that gap between Where the Red Fern Grows and Carrie. It was actually not that big and most of us made the jump easily as a literary rite of passage and didn’t worry about it. We were led into adult books just like that, and, perhaps acting my stereotypical age, I’d say we didn’t suffer for it all.

Modern life is about specialization and that is why this new genre exists, to further separate and hone tastes and choices. Like all genres it is a curation. The rise of Young Adult however, is a specific modern phenomenon. It aims at a vibrant and active readership. Though adults buy books, a greater proportion of young adults read, they are required to in school and it bleeds into their private lives. It is often a daily activity quite unlike an average adult’s. Thank the vestiges of Humanities education for that.

The concept of literature or “Literature” is a reflection of the worthiness and dialog of the art. Calling a genre literature (lower case l) could refer to the basic idea that it’s a book, as opposed to television show, movie, or t-shirt. Put a capital L on Literature and you’re making claims as to merit and history.

All books are art, even those produced for mass consumption and meant to be imminently disposable. Each work of art furthers the art as a whole, and the culture to some degree. Sometimes art manages to reach beyond itself into greater themes and ideas that transcend the tropes of its medium by reflecting upon life and death, love and loss, and even the art itself. It can be done, should be done, IS being done in young adult books as well as other less-respected genres (mystery, western, romance etc.). It’s a subjective choice whether it’s an l of an L and it’s often determined not by contemporaries but by historians. I’m confident that many modern YA stories will be so named.

Next week:

2. What do you believe makes a novel young adult?

No comments:

Post a Comment