Every single one of us who is an adult and reads YA fiction has faced one thing in their lives: Pretentious, judgmental assholes. They are ubiquitous and unfortunately unavoidable. You know who I mean. The ones who look down their nose at your copy of Percy Jackson while waving their dog-eared copy of Infinite Jest in your face before imparting their wisdom to your lowly YA-reading self, always the same; “Why don’t you read REAL fiction?”
We have all had one of these self-important wankers judge us, probably numerous times. We’ve been told over an over again that YA fiction is just fluff, that it’s too simple and doesn’t deal with complex issues. There’s nothing more frustrating than being berated with this sort of condescending bullshit, because it’s utter rubbish. No one who has read something like Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking Trilogy, for example, could claim that YA is either fluff or simple.
I read a lot of YA, and I also read a lot of adult fiction as well, I probably even prefer adult fiction, but I have absolutely no intention of giving up reading YA any time soon. I love it.
So if I actually prefer adult fiction, why do I read YA?
I often find myself struck with the desire to read something specific, and I am finding that the only thing that can deliver this particular thing I‘m after is YA fiction. So what is it that magical thing I am after?
It’s optimism. Plain and simple. I want to read something with extraordinary characters that bravely face unspeakable evils and fight to make the world a better place. There is a sense of hope that infuses YA that I find so unbelievably charming. When so much adult fiction is overflowing with hopelessness and the mundane, is it any wonder that I would be frequently drawn to the escape that YA offers? Even when YA is beating the life out of us with heart-rending feels, it still somehow maintains its sense of hope.
And I guess that this optimism is one of the very things that YA haters criticize, that it’s not an accurate reflection of the ultimate suck fest that is reality. Well guess what! GOOD! That is exactly why I love it. I know a lot of adults who read YA books, and each of them would read more books in a year than most strictly adult-fiction only people would read in a lifetime. YA readers LOVE to read because YA fiction gives us something that we don’t get from any other genre of fiction, and something that we definitely don’t get in our everyday lives. It’s something that we obviously need. I guess you could say that adult fiction provides a more realistic view of humanity (although I’m not sure how true that even is), but YA fiction shows what humanity is capable of being. And I don’t think being reminded of that every once in a while is a bad thing.
I could give you a million reasons why YA fiction is great and definitely not something to be viewed as ‘less’ than adult fiction. I could also probably give you many different ways in which it is defined, but I think that this inherent optimism is definitely one of YA’s defining characteristics.
I don’t know how YA authors managed to hold onto the wonder and hope of youth, but somehow they did. Some how they managed to make it to adulthood without being completely crushed under the weight of reality. And do you know how I think they did it? I think they read a lot of YA fiction. And if reading YA fiction can help me hold onto that spark of optimism, then I want to read as much YA fiction as I possibly can. So stop hating on YA readers because you want someone to acknowledge how grown up you are in your reading choices. And for gods sake, do not try to plunder than amazing spirit that YA authors have manage to hold onto into adulthood. They are like unicorns, so let’s keep them safe, shall we?
Some great YA authors
Patrick Ness, Samantha Shannon, Libba Bray, Laini Taylor, Maggie Stiefvater, Sarah J. Maas, John Green, Ransom Riggs, Pierce Brown, Rick Riordan, Rick Yancey, and many more.