Copyright © 2015
The following is a critique of the current state of the Young Adult Fiction genre of literature.
I consider myself a pretty avid reader, however, I think there are a few massive problems that usually dissuade me away from the "Young Adult" (henceforth YA) genre of novels. The overwhelming consensus of my mind dictates that Young Adult Fiction is faulty by nature, but more about that later.
1. The plots never take risks.
From what I have seen, most of the plots of YA novels (especially the more popular ones) follow a very similar path. Open on a somewhat ordinary girl/boy who doesn't have much going on in their lives. Put them through some interesting circumstances, now they are interesting and turns out they were born to be special.
Of course, some diverge from this path a bit but I have been very disappointed in the fact that most of these plots stay on similar lines. If they don't follow this path, a novel will still stick to events and climaxes that have been proven to sell and entertain.
2. The characters are caricatures.
Now I know how difficult it is to create a truly complex character. But it seems like these people choose to not try at all. I enjoyed reading the Divergent Series and The Hunger Games series but both of those trilogies failed in creating characters who were not just amplified versions of one virtue. Katniss was stubborn, that is all. We don't see her come at herself from different angles or question how stubborn she actually is. We don't see her stubbornness coming into conflict with other traits. Katniss Everdeen is stubborn, and there we stop.
I would love to see a YA novel that creates a REAL, complex, character. A teenager who is juggling dozens of spheres of life not only trying to balance family and school. Real teenagers are working with family, school, friends, college plans, hobbies, life dreams, money problems, insecurities, politics, among others, and simplifying life to only two or three priorities is unrealistic.
3. The writers substitute good writing for emotional writing.
If I was a high school writing teacher I would probably give As to most YA writers. But I'm not a teacher and they are not in high school. Choosing words, selecting metaphors, and constructing imagery should serve a higher purpose than making a text sound good or attracting a reader. Truly good writing makes small choices to fit into a big structure or idea to convey to their reader. However, the easy reads of YA tend to write fluff for fluff's sake. This means of course, that books are more attractive and perhaps readers are more willing to read them, but at the end of the day the writer has failed to make any lasting impact.
(4.) AND THE REASON WHY ALL OF THIS HAPPENS:
As I said just before, I think that these problems are inherent in the YA novel. I think that good writing should not work like marketed products with focus groups and demographic pie charts. Good writing should be good writing regardless of the generation a eligible reader is in, and writers should strive to write novels that are legitimately good not only for teenagers but for beyond.
Especially nowadays, YA writers are popping out novels every two months or so because they rely on it for their income or fame. That is, of course, understandable. But these writers, most of which are adults in their thirties or forties, have a larger mission to teach youth about what makes writing unique. Instead, they are trying to mimic the way television works- pure entertainment for entertainment sake, quick flashy scenes and dramatic characters. But if writers continue to do this, surely teens will stop reading altogether as TV shows are making the choice to go the other way, making complex characters and unique plots with artistic choices for a higher purpose.
Exceptions to the Rule:
As I always like to say, there are always exceptions to the rule but you can't make the rule based on the exception. However, there are some wonderful books usually categorized in the YA genre that I do love very much. These are not all of them.
The Book Thief: This book is one of my favorites from this era. This may be because it was marketed not ONLY as a YA novel. Regardless, I think this book is so fascinating in its choice of perspective and motif and somehow it managed to take a concept written about hundreds of times and turn into its own unique majesty.
Outlander: There are more books in the series I am told, however, I have only read the first thus far. I enjoyed Outlander because it brought me into another world that isn't explored very often (Clan rivalry in 18th Century Scotland) and yet it was able to inspire thinking about modern themes in pop-culture today.
The moral of the story is this- If you're a writer, give the youth what we need, not necessarily what you think we want. If you're a reader, perhaps it's time to venture outside the limits of the books given to you by marketing experts and find out what you like for yourself. Maybe it means we need to find someone willing to write these quality novels.
There are, I'm sure, more novels that do not fall into the errors I have pointed out. Some may be included in the list below. However, my dear friend Chloe (http://pseudonymouswrites.weebly.com) made some gloriously terrible puns after I told her what I was writing about. So enjoy-
BAD IDEAS FROM MY FRIEND CHLOE
Paper towns more like Paper clowns.
Looking for Alaska more like Looking for a Good YA Novel.
Eleanor and Park more like Eleanor and Park that idea back where it came from.
Divergent more like diverge your way from this genre.
The Hunger Games more like The Hunger Games for a good YA novel.
13 Reasons Why more like 13 Reasons Why you shouldn't read YA novels.
City of Bones more like City of Bad YA novels.
Go Ask Alice more like Go Ask Alex why these are so bad.
Fallen more like fallin' off this YA bandwagon.
It's kind of a funny story more like it's kind of a horrible story.
A Wrinkle in Time more like A Wrinkle in This Plot.
The Maze Runner more like Maze, Run Away from this Book.
The Perks of Being A Wallflower more like the Perks of Being a Wall because than you don't have to read any of these books.
- Alexandra Kytka