The genre of Young Adult (YA) Fiction is often simply defined as fiction novels whose main character is a young adult, and whose stories are targeted towards young readers. There is a continuing battle that authors face when their novels are placed into the YA category.
These novels are looked down upon from a literary standpoint and are often devalued as important pieces of work. Instead of critique being based on the quality of writing or the severity of the topics that are addressed, YA novels are often judged simply because of the age range they commonly appeal to.
The popularization of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series became a turning point for YA fiction. The literary skill and deep concepts that are addressed within these books made it difficult for critics to not give them formal recognition. As Harry Potter rapidly gained popularity and quickly broke sales records, there were still disagreements on whether the series deserved a spot on bestseller lists because it was considered a children’s novel. In fact, it was because of this series that some newspapers started separating children and YA books from adult books in their bestseller lists, as to not diminish the value the title of being a bestseller.
John Green is one of the most well-known YA novelists, having written popular books such a Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska. His most popular novel, The Fault in Our Stars, was on the bestsellers lists for two years before its successful movie adaptation. Green has commented various times on his stance about the “Young Adult stigma” and continually expresses his pride for being a popular author amongst teenagers.
As someone who constantly has a book in her hand, I would definitely consider John Green to be one of my all time favorite authors. When asked which books have changed my life, Looking for Alaska is always the first that comes to mind. I often feel hesitant when expressing my appreciation for this novel. I even feel the need to explain my opinion because of the negative stigma that has been placed upon the YA genre. From what I have seen online and in my personal conversations, John Green especially faces criticism and judgement because of his vast popularity amongst teenage girls. His novels flawlessly address the severity of important life issues such as loss, mental health, love and mortality, while also exercising skillful literary characteristics. He undoubtedly deserves more literary respect than he is currently given.
Belittling YA fiction is a reflection of belittling the minds of our youth, specifically the minds of teenage girls. These books are not superficial and naive love stories; they are full of complex and difficult issues that are often neglected in books that are seen as more mature. Traditionally speaking, teenage girls have been seen and depicted as superficial and are assumed to be lacking a mature understanding of the world around them. This stereotype still affects the way people view teenage girls and apparently Young Adult Fiction.
Asst. Arts & Entertainment Editor