So, I spent July not finishing A Game of Thrones, and reading four apocalypse books. I’ve done around 15k of creative writing for work, and God knows how much not very creative writing for work. I even managed to make progress on editing the book.

I’m picking up the reading challenge again this month – where I (try) to finish three books from a specific genre. This month, I’ll be reading young adult (YA) fiction.

What is young adult fiction?

When I described my work in progress to an imposing literary agent last year, I told her it was a speculative fiction book, but she told me it was young adult fiction. I rejected this, because I thought the term “young adult fiction” was publishing jargon for “books for teens” and my writing isn’t aimed at the teen market.

But…

1. No one seems to know what they mean by young adult. Wikipedia says that YA authors see themselves as writing for the 16-25 market (did they track all of these writers down to ask them?). Goodreads says that a book is YA fiction if marketed to 13-21 readers.

2. I don’t believe in putting an age range on literature (with the exception of things like Spot the Dog of course). I think 65 year-olds are just as likely to enjoy Harry Potter as their grandchildren.

3. Some bloody good books are published for the YA market, and I don’t want to miss out on reading them just because I happen to be a few years older.

YA fiction can be any genre, but it tends to focus on a lead character who is in the young adult age range, and feature coming of age type issues (which my book has nothing to do with, ergo it can’t be YA, can it?)

Young adult reading

There are a few YA “must read” lists floating around the interwebs:

  • Buzzfeed has a best YA books of 2013 list, with its number one read listed as Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell.
  • Upworthy provides a handy flow chart to guide you to the best YA book to read for your particular mood.
  • The current New York Times young adult best seller list ranks The Fault in our Stars as the bestselling YA book around at the moment.

What I’ll be reading

I’m going to read four books this month, which should be manageable because I have two glorious weeks off coming up. This month, I’ll be reading:

  • Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
  • Gone, by Michael Grant
  • Divergent, by Veronica Roth
  • The Fault in our Stars, by John Green

I acquired all of these books during random “oooh, shiny” book moments (I can’t be the only one to go out for a birthday card, and return with two or three books, can I?).

Want to find out more about the genre?

You should be ashamed!

Hark! Is that the distant cry of the cultural snob I hear? Why yes it is! I don’t know where to start with this article. The writer starts off by insisting that adults should be embarrassed to read YA books. Ms judgemental then says:

 “Let’s set aside the transparently trashy stuff like Divergent and Twilight, which no one defends as serious literature.” 

Ouch!

Then…

“I know, I know: Live and let read. Far be it from me to disrupt the “everyone should just read/watch/listen to whatever they like” ethos of our era.”

Well, yeah! God forbid people feel free to read what they want to without feeling the moral obligation to pick up an “adult book”.

There’s a good counter-argument to this article on the Washington Post website.

It’s not perfect

Nothing created by a human being can possibly be perfect. Not even literary fiction.

Here is a good talk on the problem some YA books have with structure (which includes my new favourite phrase “small minded assbags”)

Diversity in YA fiction

There’s some concern that YA fiction isn’t very racially diverse, that it doesn’t portray enough non-traditional relationships, and that hardly any characters have disabilities. The #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign highlights this issue.

My first thought was that writers may be more inclined to write what they’re familiar with, and so just not even consider diversity until someone points out the lack of it. I’d also imagine that the issue of diverse characters will get better as the writers creating them come from more diverse backgrounds. Of course, I failed to consider that the publishing industry might not get behind these books to the same extent.

Diversity in YA fiction is a complex issue that can’t be solved by increasing awareness alone. There’s an element of social change involved, and that takes time.

There’s no guarantee that I’m going to enjoy reading these books (is there ever?), but I’m going to read them with an open mind. The thing about being a cultural snob is that you’re so convinced that your perspective is the right one, that you don’t know or care that you could be missing something truly awesome.

I understand that we’re all born to be judgemental little oiks, but there’s still this thing called manners. For example, while I’ve never seen the appeal of a certain annoying singer, I don’t think people who do like him should be embarrassed or ashamed (just that they might want to get their hearing checked 😉 #TeamOrlando).