Does YA Fiction Make Too Many Excuses for Young Adults?

In light of some of the controversy and discussions going around the internet about young adult fiction (and also because it’s been a doozy of a week/weekend and I really don’t have any posts prepped this week), I’m going to share a post I wrote back in April on the Ferret blog. It’s both a rant about my (personal) frustrations with YA fiction, and some things I think would make it better.

YA does serve a huge purpose in the publishing world, and in people’s lives, and I’m not belittling it. But there are some major trends in it I see as… taking the easy way out. I know that not nearly all submitted novels get published, and publishers are likely to take what sells over what’s influential, but they are responding to the market.

So perhaps the market needs to change?

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8 thoughts on “Does YA Fiction Make Too Many Excuses for Young Adults?

  1. Well, I wish I wasn’t about to walk out the door, but:

    It doesn’t matter if it’s YA or not, publishers are always publishing identical material. That’s how they work. It’s just that it’s obvious in YA, right now, because that’s THE THING.
    I don’t like most YA but, then, I don’t like most stuff. Most stuff just isn’t… well, I’ll just say it that way. Most stuff isn’t.

    My two current novels would fall into the YA category because they have young protagonists, but neither of them fit the model, and I don’t consider them YA just like I don’t consider Narnia YA.

    And I’d say more, but I have to run.

    1. “Most stuff isn’t.” That’s a very good way to put it!

      There’s a reason I pretty much only read the genre I write, from big publishers at least, and it’s to know what the market is. I do think fantasy is a much more flexible genre than many others.

  2. I have to say, I love YA novels. Most of what’s out there that’s trendy I avoid, but there’s some amazing speculative fiction written for young adults if you’re willing to dig for it. I also really appreciate the more tasteful way in which YA approaches issues like sexuality–adult fic can tend to belabor points. I stopped reading Game of Thrones because it was like reading an incredibly well done and intricately plotted porno lol. Descriptions of naked people just aren’t my thing 😉

    A few books from the YA genre that fall under spec fic which I’d HIGHLY recommend are…

    ‘Plain Kate’ and ‘Sorrow’s Knot’ by Erin Bow. Awesome teenage female protagonists, and an unexpected approach to the typical fantasy setting. ‘Plain Kate’ takes place in a setting that resembles Eastern Europe and ‘Sorrow’s Knot’ in one resembling pre-colonial America.

    The Birthright Trilogy by Gabrielle Zevin. A dystopia for people who are tired of the now-standard YA dystopia. There are good things and bad things about the world, but it’s still just the world. The heroine, Anya, deals with a lot of difficulty in her life (she’s the daughter of a high-profile mobster) and eminently deserves the title of strong woman, but the point is never belabored. (A rant: there are a lot of things I enjoy about Kristin Cashore’s YA fantasy, but I can’t help but feel like I’m being beaten over the head with the notion that “this heroine is a strong, independent woman!” Show me, don’t tell me.)

    The Fire and Thorns Trilogy by Rae Carson. Another fantasy with a novel (no pun intended) approach to setting. The characters and backdrop are all vaguely Hispanic in origin, which was really cool. Carson also deals very effectively with ideas of faith and religion without these being religious books, which I really appreciated–so often religion in fantasy is extremely one-dimensional. The heroine, Elisa, is extremely unconventional (she’s overweight for one, and has absolutely no idea what she’s doing most of the time) and the book takes on the fantasy tropes of prophecy and the “chosen one” and does some really interesting things with them.

    All these books break out of the typical YA mold and are very worth the read.

    1. You’d recommended Plain Kate to me before, but I will definitely be looking up the others as well!

      If you haven’t read it already, you should definitely pick up Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. The pacing is a bit slow in places, but the overarching plot and the worldbuilding make the slow spots so worth it to get through.

  3. YA gets on my nerves for a lot of the same reasons that you listed. I hate the YA that is all about finding that one true love when you are 16….for Christ sake, your 16 your priorities should be what college you want and what major you want to pick. Boys are a #2….or #15 in the priority list.

    When it comes to finding yourself, there is only so much soul searching you can do when you are 16. I fully understand what you went through at your age. At my age, I was trying my best to get to be an adult and get to make those young adult like decisions that a normal teen should be allowed to make (I had a messed up adolescence). I really feel like if I had read some of these YA books when I was a teenager it would have been detrimental to my development (thankfully my rebellion was fueled by classic literature).

    There are some really good ones out there. Daughter of Smoke and bone being one of them. As an adult I don’t think there is anything wrong with liking ya I think the problem comes in when there is a fixation on the youth aspect of the story.

    1. I guess I feel that a lot of teens aren’t equipped to deal with some of the circumstances they are going through because so much YA out there is not dealing with it. Some is, but the trendy stuff isn’t, and unfortunately it’s the ‘trendy stuff’ that is so easy to stumble across. I’m with you, though – if I’d read the type of YA that’s out now when I was a teen? I would have not been able to deal with the situations I was in.

      I’m (slowly) working my way through the final book in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy. A beta-reader actually recommended the first one to me a couple of years ago because the concept was similar to a novel I was writing. Fortunately, while there’s similar concepts in both those books and my novel(s), they are nothing alike, lol!

  4. I love YA but I haven’t read much (at least from publishers) because they are the same. And I LOATHE love triangles. It was boring reading basically the same book but new names, new places and a different creatures/secret. (Although, I do have to recommend a great YA. Angelfall by Susan Ee. I thought the female protag was smart and strong.)

    1. Ugh. Don’t get me started on the love triangles. >_<

      I'm ready for either no romance in a YA, or for a threesome, haha. Anything but the love triangle.

      I will look up Angelfall! Thanks. 🙂

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