Tuesday, July 22, 2008

To YA or Not to YA

The blur between what is an adult book and what is a "young adult" (YA) book is a fuzzy one as this article attests. Frankly, this sort of nonsense makes my blood boil,

Mark Haddon, who wrote numerous novels for children before “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” said in an e-mail message that he recalled “a number of people looking down their noses at me when I explained what I did for a living, as if I painted watercolors of cats or performed as a clown at parties.”

Many adults don’t realize how much the Y.A. genre has changed since their days of reading teenage romances and formulaic novels. “A lot of people have no idea that right now Y.A. is the Garden of Eden of literature,” said Sherman Alexie, whose first Y.A. novel, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” won the National Book Award for young people’s literature last year. Even the prestige of that award didn’t make him impervious to the stigma. “Some acquaintances felt I was dumbing down,” Alexie said in a phone interview. “One person asked me, ‘Wouldn’t you have rather won the National Book Award for an adult, serious work?’ I thought I’d been condescended to as an Indian — that was nothing compared to the condescension for writing Y.A.”

and I think the author is bang on when she said that many adults have no idea what YA really means. Get thee to a book store and check it out. Really, anything goes, and some of the best literature going is written for young people who will gladly toss a book aside if it doesn't grab them from the beginning.


James O'Hearn said...

I met Mark, back before Curious Incident was a hit, and we talked about YA fiction a little bit.

I have always thought that the greatest literature is either YA, or has a strong YA bent. Dickens was considered YA for the most part when it was first published. Most if not all of the books studied up through high school could, I think, be considered YA as well:

- To Kill a Mockingbird
- Catcher in the Rye
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

YA doesn't mean "dumb." Some will disagree with me, but I think it has more to do with perspective, how injustice is viewed, or the struggle against arbitrary authority.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely agree. YA most certainly does not mean dumb and people who think so just haven't been reading it. As a very wise instructor of mine said, a YA book is the book a young adult is reading. These categories are largely meaningless, but troublesome none-the-less.