Wednesday, June 26, 2013

My Problem With YA Lit

I have such a love/hate relationship with YA literature.

I love classic YA lit. I love the To Kill a Mockingbirds and the A Tree Grows in Brooklyns. I love the dystopias and the coming-of-ages and the fantasies. But I love them for a reason, and that reason is usually a beautiful nugget of human wisdom wrapped in a sweet and simple story. These classic YA novels are the reason I keep coming back to the genre, reading all the new YA books I hear about, hoping to find that next great YA classic with that new beautiful nugget of universal truth.

The problem is that many of the popular YA books receiving so much attention these days don't have enough substance to launch them into the realm of classics.* I've read a lot of really good stories with a lot of creative twists. I've read a lot of steamy teen romances (a lot of triangles, not sure why there are so many love triangles, but whatever). I've read a lot of fun books, and I've liked many of them. But there's just not a lot more to them than that. They are just fun or creative stories with nothing beneath the surface. No nuggets of human wisdom. No deeper universal truth. They won't last.

Take Of Poseidon by Anna Banks, a book I listened to recently courtesy of Sync. I'd heard some good things about this book, but in the end, it wasn't much more than a "Little Mermaid" story flipped around (merman prince falls for landed girl). It was a fun story for sure, with a suitably steamy romance. But there was nothing else there, really. And I found it disappointing.

But a part of me wonders if I should be so judgmental. After all, I am not the target audience of YA literature. If young adults like these kinds of stories, should I come along with my snooty English-teacher nose-in-the-air and declare them NOT WORTHY because they will never be considered a classic? I mean, sometimes kids just want a story. They just want to be entertained in fresh and creative ways. And I can understand that. As a humanities person, I know the value of story for story's sake. The human brain loves stories, whether their be some deep moral message or not. Should I ask YA literature to be "deeper" than it is just because I am an adult who enjoys deeper stories? Or should I just let YA lit be for young adults, let them have their fun little stories that at least get them reading with no judgment on my part?

I'm still struggling with this. I'm still trying to decide what makes "good" YA literature. What I do know is that I love this genre, and I will keep reading it in search of that next "classic" book.

*John Green being a notable exception here, but I've got other issues with Green's book, which maybe I'll talk about when/if I review one of his books here.

1 comment:

  1. YA is not my favorite genre, but I do like to read it when I'm in the mood for it. And I agree with you--it is enjoyable but also very forgettable. I think I've just come to accept that when I'm in the mood for just fun reading where I can escape into the pages for a little bit, I turn to YA; when I want something with a little more depth and substance (but that I can still get lost in), I choose a different genre.