The Stigma Surrounding Young Adult Fiction
For as long as I have been reading I have adored young adult romance fiction. I think that the sense of connection, that is so prevalent in young adult fiction, really speaks to everyone's deepest desire to love and be loved in return. But as I got older, I drifted away from this genre- I became cynical after a few bad breakups, I became a feminist who didn't want a man to come along and solve her problems and, in turn, I turned away from my favourite genre of fiction, instead opting for more “realistic” love stories.
When I started working on my debut novel, I wasn't entirely sure what genre it would fall into, I didn’t even really know it was going to be a love story. I just knew that there was a part of my past that I needed to translate into a story and I knew that I needed to share that with the world. However, along the way, these characters poured out of me from the deepest depths of my soul. They met and fell in love and it was completely out of my control – a concept that can only make sense to writers - and in turn, I fell in love with them. Along the wild ride that was writing this novel, my adoration of the YA genre broke free and I had no control over how it turned out.
I don't understand why there is this stigma about young adult fiction, when it literally appeals to the most basic human needs and desires. So where did it come from, when did one of the most popular genres become “taboo” or something to be kept hidden in our list of guilty pleasures? In the last few years we have seen a shift away from what is considered ‘mainstream’ with many young people moving away from the once more popular genres of film, television, music and literature in favour of unique and individual ideas and sounds. Popular genres are being dismissed simply because they were once liked by too many people.
A large part of the movement away from Young Adult Fiction, and Romance in particular, is it’s crowning as the “trash” of the literature world. So called ‘literary snobs’ who debunk anything that didn’t come from Mary Shelley or Jane Austen have deemed these works less valid because they lack the complexity of the romantic period but I reject this theory. In university, we learnt about a theory that a for a work of fiction to be considered a complex text, you must be able to answer yes to each of the following questions.
- Are there strong relationships between ideas and characters?
- Is the text rich in mature content and literary devices?
- Is the structure of the text complex and original?
- Is the texts style complex?
- Does it contain multifaceted and context driven vocabulary?
- Is the authors purpose evident?
If this theory is correct, I would argue that any published work is an act of great literature and has a right to be shared and loved instead of stigmatised and hidden under our pillows. It’s important to remember that, as writers, we pour our heart and soul into the work we put out into the world. We channel every bad experience we have ever had, every day we have struggled to get out of bed and every moment we have felt so wrapped up in another person that we couldn’t take a breath without thinking about them. Young Adult Fiction is so focussed on human emotion and is targeted at readers who are still finding their place in the world. For this reason, I believe it to be one of the most powerful genre’s out there. Let’s not degrade a genre because it’s too mainstream, let’s instead give into our basic human needs and desires and pick up a good YA Novel!
Check out the list below of some of the best young adult fiction novels I have read over the last few months:
- Anything written by John Green:
I spent a few months of last year going back and re-reading every John Green book. I must say, for a 43-year-old man, it is remarkable the ways that this man rationalises the human predicament through the eye of teenage characters. In every book, without fail, he perfectly depicts the battle that is living with mental illness.
- The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker:
Dealing with the question “what is everything we knew about the way the world works changed?”, Karen Thompson Walker epitomises the struggles of humans when faced with the unexpected, the unimaginable. This novel amplifies how important it is to realise that sometimes things just happen and there is nothing we can do to stop or change that. At the same time, Thompson Walker highlights the incredible capability for human beings to grow and adapt to the most difficult circumstances.
- All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Sometimes it is those who have run out of life to live that teach us just how valuable our own lives are. This is a heart wrenching love story about a young boy, fascinated by death and a girl who needs to learn to stop counting the days and start living them.
- The After Series by Anna Todd
Yes, I read it, I know, shame on me. Honestly, I became so attached to these characters over the span of this series. With intricate story lines and complex character development, I couldn’t really understand what all the disgust was about. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t the most well written book, but damn I was hooked - I read most of these books within a day! And I mean, who doesn’t need a bit more Harry Styles in their lives?
- Wait for Me by Caroline Leech:
Ok so this one was unconventional but oh my god it was good! Going back in time to World War Two, this novel tells the story of a love that defies all obstacles, borders and prejudices and it was truly beautiful.
- How to Save a Life by Liz Fenton
This was described to me as a modern Groundhog Day and, on the surface it is precisely that. But much deeper down, it is the story of a man learning to move on from something that has help him back for so long. It is about letting go of the love of your life and learning that something’s are just out of our control. I adored every second of it.
My debut novel is set to be released September this year, keep an eye on my social media channels for news and updates.