Hello everyone, and welcome back! This week, I’m doing something a little different. Now, if you’ve been reading my work here for a while, you would know that I often talk (read: never shut up) about the young-adult or YA genre.
A quick disclaimer to note: a lot of this article is highly subjective and based off of my own opinion, bias, and experience. I do not mean to attack or in any way harm the differing opinions of others.
YA is the category – sometimes, an entire genre – geared towards readers anywhere between the ages of say, 12 to 18, and it typically consists of fiction – fantasy, sci-fi, contemporary, and more. Basically, the literature that bridges children’s and middle-grade books, to adult literature.
Some common middle-grade books that people can confuse for YA are the Rick Riordan books – Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Heroes of Olympus, and so on – the earlier books in the Harry Potter series, the Nancy Drew books, the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, and Wonder by R.J. Palacio.
Some common YA books would include the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, the Divergent series by Veronica Roth, the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, the School for Good and Evil series by Soman Chainani, and so on and so forth. The list is literally endless.
And how, did this list of popular young-adult books and series’ come to become infinite? Simple. In the late 2000s, authors like John Green (The Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns, Looking for Alaska), Stephanie Meyer (the Twilight Saga), and Cassandra Clare (the Mortal Instruments) were the original pioneers of this reading subset. The popularity of their books led to an explosion of others, ranging across sci-fi, mystery, horror, thrillers, romance, fantasy, adventure – you name it, it exists.
Of course, it isn’t as though this category was just created a little less than twenty years ago – it’s been around since the 1960s and 1970s – often unintentionally so. J.D. Salinger did not intend for his work, ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ to be popular among teenagers, yet, it is one of those cult-classics now.
Yet, this explosion and sudden saturation of the market isn’t without its consequences. In just a short time – barely more than a decade, several trends and tropes have risen and fallen, like empires. The first one that comes to mind is the love-triangle trope, that typically features a “plain-but-actually-a-supermodel-once-she-takes-off-her-glasses-and-lets-down-her-plain-mousy-brown-hair” main character, torn between choosing the “comical-boy-next-door-best-friend” and the “mysterious-new-brooding-bad-boy-stranger-who-main-girl-can’t-stop-thinking-about”.
I think you can tell by now how thoroughly exhausted I am of this trope.
Another trope that I don’t like is dystopia. To be fair, I enjoyed this trope when I was younger, and I still do when it’s done well or meant to be satirical or reflective – for example, futuristic North America as the nation of Panem, in the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. However, in recent times, dystopian settings, become more and more vague and not as unique as a fictional otherworld made purely from a writer’s imagination. I might be biased, considering I much prefer fantasy, but I still feel that this trope is overdone.
The big issue with the YA is that – as you might have seen in my listings of authors – is that from what I’ve read, representation is an issue. This could be because many, many, many authors in this subset are middle-aged, white women – and occasionally men. Because these authors are writing about the “teenage experience” and whatnot, it seems the slightest bit problematic to be writing about teenagers as a forty-something year old. Another issue with this is that these authors can be overlooked as writers of “chick-lit”- light romance novels that are supposed to be geared towards women.
Still, gradually, we see more and more authors of colour, of different ages and experiences and backgrounds coming out and showing us their stories and thoughts. I hope to read stories by more and more authors – especially those of Indian origin and backgrounds – soon. Do you have any recommendations? Let me know in the comments!
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