So I was with our IT guy trying to open our servers to get multiplayer for Minecraft when he expressed his sadness over the passing of Terry Pratchett. He said that Pratchett was the catalyst to his love of reading as a boy. As librarians, we always love to hear these stories. I told the IT guy, let’s call him Steve, that I hadn’t read any of Pratchett’s books because I’m a YA librarian and I read about 90 teen books a year-I just don’t have time for more than one adult book for the year. Steve says, “Teen books are terrible and not ‘literature’.” (He used air quotes).
After hearing this, I double over and exclaimed, “You’re hurting my feelings! This is my job! Teens books are great stories!” I unfortunately didn’t get the opportunity to change his mind because the discussion went back to Minecraft and I had to go shopping for your new teen room. But this is what I would have said.
The only difference between adult fiction and YA fiction is that the protagonist is a teenager. THAT’S ALL!
Of course not all YA fiction will be relatable to adults but not all adult fiction is relatable either. Did I enjoy Girl on the Train? Yes, but I’m also not a drunk who rides the train and fantasizes about the families in the houses the train passes.
There are some wonderful, relatable, beautifully written YA books that feature strong male and FEMALE characters, Vice Magazine’s Hugh Ryan. And some of those female characters are written by Andrew Smith. But I digress.
I keep hearing these snarky journalists say that YA is only about vampires and cancer. Do your research before you try to make your point. The YA market is booming and if you don’t believe me, go to a library conference. Down publisher’s row you’ll see that YA books outnumber adult fiction, J Fiction, and picture books because YA is relevant.
Do you know what’s considered YA these days? To Kill a Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies, The Outsiders, and The Kite Runner. Why? Simply because the protagonists are teens/tweens. We are in the midst of future YA classics. The Fault in Our Stars and Hunger Games will mostly likely be required reading in the near future. Live in the moment; be excited that you are in heart of new classic literature. You could be able to tell your grandchildren that you stood in line to get The Deathly Hallows or you saw the midnight showing of The Hunger Games or you met John Green at a book signing or you own Eleanor & Park first edition. We are living in the golden era of YA fiction-celebrate!
If you’re an adult or knows someone who feels YA is terrible or isn’t “literature,” I implore you to visit your local YA librarian and ask them to recommend you something. You might discover Code Name Verity, I Am the Messenger, I’ll Give You The Sun, The Raven Boys, Looking for Alaska, Bone Gap, Eleanor & Park, Midwinterbood, Gabi A Girl in Pieces, When a Monster Calls, Grasshopper Jungle, or All The Bright Places. Maybe one of these books or other books will be the catalyst to their love of all books.