Why I read YA: It’s honest.
Without a doubt, authors are more candid when looking back on their own youth than when trying to reflect the perfection of their mature, adult mind. They know that children will not reject their works when issues are dealt with honestly. Kids don’t know how the world is supposed to be. They can’t operate within assumptions and layers of pretense. They don’t believe in fluff. Working with my middle school girls through Girl Talk, a mentorship program, we often had to go off-script when the kids could smell idealism. I’ve seen the same thing happen when dealing with younger book groups.
These kids crave a raw, unbiased version of reality. They don’t seek echoes of their own experiences, because they haven’t had them yet. They, as I do, want to live through the eyes of a protagonist. One of my favorite books is The Riverman. It’s about two neighbors that learn they can enter another dimension, one made of dreams, but are haunted by a shady figure. They are pushed through the range of human emotions, from fear to rapture and even love. Though it is a speculative novel, the emotions and struggles of the characters are very real, very raw. The protagonists of YA, by growing up before our eyes, show change far more candidly than any adult would admit to.
The honesty required in YA by reflecting on growing up and the struggles of finding oneself make it an irreplaceable favorite genre for me. I love book that show the transitions of characters and remain candid about our world’s flaws.
Another part of YA I’ve come to love is the diversity of authors. A YA author is just someone with a message to send to children everywhere. They come from all walks of life, connected only by their passion and tenacity. YA authors are mothers, teachers, lawyers, doctors, and postmen who just want to give us their truth. In traditional adult publishing, it can sometimes be difficult to see this diversity of background and thought. It’s there, but the umbrella nature of the term YA allows for a hodgepodge of ideas, perspectives, and backgrounds to find their voices.
YA reflects our world in a brutally honest way. Just like children who tend point out visual flaws with curiosity instead of judgement, YA books see the world the way it is rather than the way we are taught it should be.