Weekly Tea Discussion: Young Adult Books

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Young adult books are becoming more popular than ever. When I was at BookCon last month, there were more lines awaiting advance copies for YA books and bigger crowds to meet their favorite YA authors. Yes, the popularity of YA books is widespread. Of course, anything that is in high demand will always be met with criticism. With that in mind, this week’s discussion looks into young adult books and how it is perceived by a society of readers.

I don’t read a lot of YA books. And honestly, I can’t give you a reason as to why I don’t. It’s not that they don’t interest or appeal to me. There’s just not one book that stands out to me and encourages me to read it. My interest in YA books may not be as deep compared to other fellow readers but that doesn’t mean I look down at the genre entirely and readers who prefer YA over adult fiction. I really can’t blame them. If you continuously read bad fiction books and gravitate towards books that are more interesting, what is wrong with that?

YA books don’t offer a realistic portrayal of the real world. That is just some of the criticisms that are made against these types of books. I don’t know about you but when I read, I don’t try to find the real world within them. Sure, books should be relatable to you. But I know for most avid readers, we read to escape from the real world. Critics, who call themselves the “serious readers” view this as a negative. We need books that reflect the real world, they say. I am not arguing against that. We shouldn’t completely forget what is going on around us. But with the world so crazy and hectic as it is, is it so wrong for us to read “escapism” literature? To go back and remember a time when everything was so simple?

If you remember there was an article by Ruth Graham titled Against YA published last year that received a huge response, both positive and negative. While rereading the article, I came across a quote that even a year a later, the attitude towards YA books has not changed:

Most importantly, these books consistently indulge in the kind of endings that teenagers want to see, but which adult readers ought to reject as far too simple. YA endings are uniformly satisfying, whether that satisfaction comes through weeping or cheering. These endings are emblematic of the fact that the emotional and moral ambiguity of adult fiction—of the real world—is nowhere in evidence in YA fiction. These endings are for readers who prefer things to be wrapped up neatly, our heroes married or dead or happily grasping hands, looking to the future. But wanting endings like this is no more ambitious than only wanting to read books with “likable” protagonists.”

By this quote, I can tell from this quote that the writer has not read a lot of YA books. She made a judgement call and decide that all YA books have satisfying endings. I may not have read that many YA books but I can safely dispute this comment. Not all YA books have satisfying endings. That is just how it is perceived by the media, especially if it’s getting a lot of attention for being adapted into a film or TV show. Even if YA books have “satisfying endings” so to speak, is that necessarily a bad thing? What’s wrong with having a satisfying ending, especially in a book your reading? Let’s also be clear on another point: a lot of adult fiction, including classics, have satisfying endings. A lot of adult fiction books give you instant gratification. So is it really fair to demean YA books and place adult fiction on a pedestal, just because you don’t understand it?

Let us also keep in mind: the genre “young adult” books, it doesn’t really exist. It is just a marketing tool used by the publishers to target books to a certain demographic. So before you start judging an entire genre on faulty perceptions, maybe give it a try? You never know, you night find your next great read.

What are your feelings toward YA books? Do you prefer to read YA books over adult fiction?

4 thoughts on “Weekly Tea Discussion: Young Adult Books

  1. Honestly, I love YA. I’ve started to branch out into other genres, but I keep coming back. I feel like regardless of whether the book is set in the real world or some fantasy world, a lot of YA actually deals with tough issues that are important.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And that is a common misconception of YA books. Most people have this idea that just because it is a young adult book, its childish and has unrealistic themes. But they fail to understand that YA books can deal with very tough issues just as well as adult fiction books, in some cases even better.

      Liked by 1 person

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