I’m an English literature student, I read ‘Young Adult’ books, and I’m not ashamed.
Ever since University lectures finished way back in April I have been on a reading sprint. I found a different appreciation for literature. I love my degree and all forms of literature however, since I was about fourteen I have been encouraged by my school teachers and mum to widen my range of reading to literary classics. And I did, and I loved them. Studying Pride and Prejudice in year eleven introduced me to the exciting world of Jane Austen, whom I now love. Throughout this year my degree has enabled me to read a broad range of literary classics – Great Expectations, Frankenstein and Robinson Crusoe. My knowledge of literature was broadened to a huge span that makes me excited to study it for another two years and research even further.
However once my lectures finished I suddenly found myself at the liberty to read whatever I wanted, and that thrilled me, I was instantly drawn back to my old favourite category of Young Adult fiction. I found 'booktube' - people like Sasha and Emma who are obsessed with books and Young Adult fiction that I felt inspired and excited to dive into this world.
Young Adult fiction seems to have a stigma attached in the literary world, people assume that because it is centred around teenagers, they are easier to read and do not deal with deep and meaningful subjects, or do not challenge the reader, or do not make them think. People assume everything ends happily in a YA novel, which, if you’ve read Divergent (spoiler alert) it definitely doesn’t.
At the beginning of June I went to a book panel at Waterstones Piccadilly as part of the #ThisiswhoIam tour, and the author Leila Sales stated that to define a YA book it has to be three things:
1) The protagonist is a teen
2) The ending needs to have some kind of hope
3) To be published by a YA imprint.
Many people think YA books are exactly like The Hunger Games, and are all dystopian novels. However YA just means the protagonist is a teenager! There are still all the sub-genre’s such as contemporary, dystopian, fantasy, historical fiction – and if they are from an immediate point of view of a teenager, they are YA!
Teenagers are honest narrators. They have a sense of the world like no other – like that they are the only people that matter, that the world is at their fingertips, like they could change the world. They don’t have taxes, or a family to support that turns their world into worry. They are finding out how they stand out. They are falling in love for the first time, an honest raw type of emotion. They are relatable, immediate and exciting.
However they are not afraid to talk openly about hard subjects. YA books increase peoples knowledge around certain subjects - they have definitely increased my knowledge about abuse, for example from Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard, anxiety and panic attacks from Girl Online by Zoe Sugg and suicide from The Programme by Suzanne Young.
My two favourite genre’s of YA are contemporary and dystopian. I was first introduced to Dystopian through The Hunger Games and the hype it got throughout all media. I then went on to read and love the Crossed series by Ally Condle, Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Selection by Kiera Cass and, more recently, the Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard (my new obsession.) I also followed many teenagers into the pits of the Shadowhunter world (The Mortal Instruments, The Infernal Devices and The Last Artifices) by Cassandra Clare.
All these books are not happy-go-lucky. The authors have created in-depth different worlds with different problems. The worlds may be different to what the readers know, but the emotions and relationships are similar to what teenagers face. Like Alec’s battle with his sexuality in The Mortal Instruments series, like Mare’s difficulty with trust in Red Queen and America’s defiance against rules in The Selection series – the characters are relatable. These books take you to a different world. They let you escape from your worries and pain and open you to realisation that you are not alone.
Young Adult contemporary is possibly my favourite sub-genre (although that is a bold statement to make!) I started with Sarah Dessen in my early teens, I could not put these books down, the characters and the various settings of different small towns in America, and the sweet but challenging romances – they just have the perfect mix of everything. I then moved onto Stephanie Perkins books, which have such lovely characters and twists and turns in their romances. However in the last year or so I’ve broadened my horizons to books which tackle a range of difficult topics, (which I think reflects the publishing world being more open to diverse subjects) such as All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven and We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. Young Adult contemporaries teach you to see the positive side in everything, they whisk you away to a new town with exciting characters and more often than not, a great love story!
One of my favourite characters, the gorgeous Will Herondale from The Infernal Devices series says, ‘It was books that made me feel that perhaps I was not completely alone.'
Whether your a teenager or an adult, Young Adult Fiction is there for you. Even if you love Jane Austen as much as I do, go and try out a new book, I promise you - if it is one I've mentioned in this post, you will not be disappointed!
I'm off on holiday today so I'm away from the blog for a week, but go and follow me on instagram and follow me on snapchat (Christinastorey) for updates! Have a lovely week - and go read! Christina x