© All credits goes to nateswinehart tumblr for this amazing drawing I used to illustrate this article.
As a 21 year-old girl, this is a debate that moderately touches me : I can say with certainty that I am not a teenager anymore. I guess, though, that it is still acceptable for me to read YA books : my teenage years are not so far away, and, let’s face it, no one is going to give me strange looks when I show up with my copy of The Fault in our Stars in a café during lunch break. Even though, reading some articles online, I really wanted to share my opinion on this subject. Sellings are great for YA books, they turn into movies and intense discussions between, sometimes, not so YA people. Why do so many people read it? And, well, most importantly : Is there really an age to read YA books?
For me, it all starts with the stories. I think criticism on YA books is based on this : we see the same plot, over and over again. A love triangle? Déjà-vu all over again. A new vampire story? Not so new. Dystopia novels? I kind of feel like I already read this one…Well, breaking news : there is a great diversity in YA books, as I am sure there is in any other kind of books. I’m sure adult books have their share of look-alike plots, too. Different stories, point of views, ways to tell it…Okay, so we hear that YA books are all shaped in the same way. This is a pre-conceived idea, I think : some novels are having success, it’s not their fault if they are based on the same kind of stories, or characters. It’s YA books, so, teenagers are the main characters, it’s normal. You just need to look past that. As book lovers, you need to seek out hidden treasures, and, let me tell you, there are so many waiting to be discovered. A diversity you wouldn’t imagine, if you searched for it a little bit more.
I want to stop for a moment and make my point about why I love so much these kind of books. The story sure plays a great part in what makes me want to read a book, and love it. The characters take the first place, too, in this debate. A wimpy group of teenagers complaining about their feelings, not knowing where they stand, being insecure, undecisive, and so on…This is the point made by some people who just, don’t get it. Yes, there are some books where the characters are annoying as hell, but that happens not only in YA books. What I love about YA books characters, is that they are real. While some novels (YA or not) don’t seem to grasp what it means to be, human, or simply don’t take the time to hold on to the feelings that, in the end, are the most important ; so many YA books do the trick. Alice Oseman’s Solitaire, for instance. Such an amazing debut. Never have I read a more accurate description of what going through teenage years can feel like. This is something that anyone can appreciate : not matter what your age is, you’ll always recall this period in your life. Lots of characters in YA books are just making everyday life problems, (not necessarily teenagehood related) real. They deal with it in a way that’s amazing to see.
I agree with John Green saying : “it’s their enthusiasm and curiosity that we can all admire and wish to emulate long after we’ve reached proper adult status.” Despite all the bad things we can say about teenagers, they are able to see the world in an amazing way, and, exploring it, seeing it through their eyes, is an experience you can never get tired of. E. Lockhart perfectly grasps the concept of being a teenager in her novels, dealing with the confusion of feelings and of finding your rightful place in the world. I am not a teenager anymore, but I can say for sure that these subjects are the ones making you think, long after you’ve shut the book. Even as an adult, that can do the trick.
Books are a great distraction, and that’s what they’re seen as, especially the YA books : they’re for teenagers, what could be that important inside? Just like any other books (and sometimes, even more accurately than any other book), YA books can deal with deep subjects. As I said before, about teenagehood years, obviously. I’ll say it again, I believe this is a subject that anyone, even adults, can read about : YA books are a mine of gold to understand teenagers. I just finished reading The disreputable history of Frankie Landau-Banks (review coming soon!). It clearly showed me that there are more to YA books than anyone can expect. This is a story about teenagers, sure. About feminism, too. About romance. About not losing yourself, and who you are in love, and in anything else. These subjects can apply to anyone, no matter the age. I am sorry to quote John Green again, but the man is a huge inspiration to me. The Fault in our stars is about sick people. Really about them, and not about the impact their illness have on others. This story, even though written with teenagers as the main characters, is about going through illness, and experiencing life despite it. Talk about universal subjects. Anyone know the huge blockbuster The Hunger Games? Well, besides making billions of dollars in theaters ; this YA book perfectly enlights the rights and wrongs of our society. The excesses of reality tv, mixed with violence, fear, riches and poors…and so on. Yes, I did a presentation in class one day on it. And my teacher couldn’t believe a YA book was so rich. My mom read it, too. She enjoyed it.
I could go on for days about the hows and whys I love YA books, and everything it brought me. I don’t believe there’s an age to read these books, and I don’t buy these pre-conceived ideas telling they’re all the same, they’re not diverse enough, and so on. Sure, the book industry will always need, no matter the genre, to propose a diverse and interesting offer. But YA is pretty awesome already as it is, and I will never be ashamed to say I love it.
In the end, you should just read what you want to read, and that’s it. As long as it brings you this little something more you’re waiting for in a book.
And you, what do you think about this debate on YA books? Why do you love YA books so much? Share your opinion with me in comments!
Some links to read more about the subject :
New Republic • Read what makes you happy and do not be embarassed
The Pretty Books Blog • Why you’ren never too old to read children’s books
Cosmopolitan • Can you get too old for YA novels?
The Horn Book • Does YA mean anything anymore?