In Defense of YA Literature

I read every day. Not just articles and blogs, but actual words-on-a-page physical books, too. I read because I love it, because it helps me become a better writer, and because I am always searching for the next adventure.

I’ll read pretty much anything from a biography all the way to historical fiction, but my most recent genre of choice is young adult fiction. From a marketer’s perspective, I’m too old for this reading level. At twenty-two I should be tackling more advanced work. And I do when it suits me. I’m in the middle of A Feast for Crows,  the fourth book in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, the one that inspired the HBO television show Game of Thrones. Certainly no one would qualify that book as appropriate for young readers. But I’m also reading Rick Riordan’s middle grade novel Mark of Athena, the third book in a fantastic spin-off from his original Percy Jackson series. I switch back and forth between the two, depending on which story I feel like reading that day, and my choice has nothing to do with the advanced level of writing in one book over the other.

In the last few years, the New York Times bestseller list has been taken over by young adult favorites like John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. And it’s not because these books are “high-concept” literature. It’s because the young adult fiction on the market right now is providing readers with engaging, easy-to-love stories for all ages. They might be written at a high school reading level, but their content speaks to everyone, kind of like Harry Potter did. J.K. Rowling wrote about a world everyone wanted to escape to, adults and children alike, and today’s young adult authors are just like her.

John Green, Veronica Roth, and all the other big names in YA are writing stories that people want to read about, regardless of the target age group. They’re using their imaginations to create countless scenarios of dystopian futures and contemporary masterpieces that show the teenage years as they are – traumatic and embarrassing and life changing – instead of just glossing over those defining moments. We all still remember that time in our lives no matter how old we are now, and many of us still dream of different realities far into adulthood. These authors are reaching greater audiences than ever before because their work is dynamic and powerful, but still down to earth and easy for people to understand, even for people who wouldn’t define themselves as habitual readers.

In a recent article entitled “Why Are We Still Fighting About YA Lit?” on The Mary Sue webpage Sarah Arboleda said, “Unless you love a medium and have been taught to think critically about it – and, most crucially, to enjoy the that process of critical thinking – you tend to use entertainment for the purse pose of being entertained.” Though we might love movies, most of us aren’t film critiques in our off hours; it’s the same way for reading books. We read what’s enjoyable and easy most of the time and pick up more advanced literature whenever we’re so inclined.

One of the things authors like to say about the E-reader versus Hardcopy books debate is that, “I don’t care how you read so long as you do.” Technically speaking, their words would still be read even if they’re being read off a screen. My advice when it comes to genres and reading levels is much the same. Reading something is 100% better than reading nothing at all. So read whatever interests you most and never let others put you down for your choices. Read what you want to read and be proud of yourself for doing it, no matter the reading level.

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