Beth Revis is having pretty much the most generous giveaway of signed YA books you have ever seen. I mean look at that. I didn’t shrink it because I wanted you to be able to actually see all of the wonderful shiny things! Anyway the point of this is to write about why we love YA! Let me count the ways.
I grew up at an interesting point, YA was on the cusp. Much of what I read I suppose would be called “middle grades” by the book folks. Redwall and Tamora Pierce and the like. The real explosion, especially in the science fiction and fantasy pools, really hit around the time I was entering college, 2005. At least that was my awareness. I mean I can remember the bookstore at home just barely starting to kind of get that in between section while I was in high school, but most things I wanted were still mixed in with early chapter books. This makes it hard for me to pinpoint exactly when my obsession began. I started buying books in high school. People have picked on my father for my large collection and his response has been that I didn’t want much else (Someday I’ll post some terrifying high school photos for you).
Tamora Pierce was probably my real gateway drug. She kept publishing and the books kind of grew up with me, even more than Harry Potter did. Also I think reflecting on her shows a lot of the concepts that I love about YA.
Bildungsroman – Yes, I love that word. The coming of age story, when we say it like that I think we often picture a boy of maybe 13 in an earlier culture proving himself in the wilderness. It is not just that. Now we have all sorts of different ways to come of age and we do it at all different times. A younger child might have a bildungsroman about them maturing when the family faces crisis. Alanna comes of age and becomes a knight, but her self discovery is at the heart. Perhaps a better word for what I am talking about is…
Transition – It could be a new school or it could be something much more earth shattering like aliens, zombies or deciding to pretend to be a boy to become a knight. Sometimes it is a conscious choice but more often the protagonists find their lives disrupted unexpectedly and they must rise to the occasion. Even Alanna simply reacts quickly to the fact they are going to be sent away. Princesses become normal people, normal people become heroes. The lives of teens have so much transition, to high school, then to college or jobs. I think seeing fictional characters go through greater extremes reminds us that we are normal. With transition though we also have:
Self discovery – In the eighth grade or so, really earlier than that, we begin to plan our lives, but it doesn’t really mean much. I’m 25 and so far pretty much all of my well laid plans have blown away in the wind. YA characters tend to change and develop and surprise you much more than those in “adult” literature. There are relationships that fail, friendships that flourish and wither, characters explore what they are doing with their life. Characters become something more than hat they were at the beginning.
The Teenreads survey asked about a trend I dislike and honestly the only thing I could really come up with was too many love triangles. Not that I think a girl needs to fall in love with guy and get on with it but I’m not big on too much fickleness. Going back to Alanna, I love her romantic progression and it is far from simple. I also don’t think all love triangles are bad, but there is a difference between liking two hot boys and having different feelings for different young men and not being sure what is love, lust or friendship.
I have a hard time deciding on favorite authors but let me throw out a couple of the names that make me giddy whether they have been near and dear to my heart for years or have recently wormed their way in:
There are so many new authors I have discovered over the past couple years and there are more waiting on the shelves in this very apartment and even more on my Christmas list and that I don’t even know about yet. I so wish I had more time to read. I think it would be easy to read for the rest of my life even limiting myself to good YA high fantasy with a female protagonist or some such silliness, but I don’t limit myself because there is such a delicious menu out there, but it is hard because I also fear missing things and I feel guilty for the things that have gathered dust waiting for me. Nothing quite matches the feeling of finishing a good book, and there are just so many good YA books out there right now. So go read some!