I’ll be the first to admit that I criticize young adult books more often than I praise them. This is partly because I have a tendency to be cynical, and partly because the YA genre as a whole is extremely saturated with poorly-written books.
That being said, I don’t actually hate young adult books. I know it comes as a shock. But in reality, I actually really love reading YA, and that’s what occupies most of space on my bookshelves. I like to say that I criticize it out of love for the genre, because it has so much potential, and yet so many books fail to reach it.
There are some diamonds in the rough when it comes to YA – it just takes some time to find them. Anyway, to balance out my sarcasm and criticism from last week’s post, I’ve decided to list a couple of things that I like about young adult books. To be honest, this probably doesn’t apply to the genre as a whole, but in the YA books that I’ve really enjoyed, this is what has stuck out to me. So without further ado, here’s the list!
Of the many, many books I’ve read over my lifetime, I definitely think young adult novels do dialogue the best. Sure, some books and authors do it better than others, and there are exceptions, but I think that overall, dialogue in YA is very authentic and well-written. They focus less on long paragraphs of explanations and descriptions – which do have their time and place, but often get overbearing – and more on the interactions between characters, which I believe is a much more effective way to telling a story.
2) They Don’t Shy Away from Important Stuff
I often see people criticizing young adult books as being fluffy and without substance. If they really think that, then they’re reading the wrong books. Yes, there are some young adult books that are poorly written and have little substance, but there are books in other age ranges that have the same problem, so it’s hardly just a YA problem.
Aside from that, there are actually plenty of young adult books that deal with important topics. There’s everyone’s favorite example of The Hunger Games trilogy, which includes themes about post-traumatic stress disorder, for one. Many dystopian novels have themes about authority and leadership. My personal favorite example of this is Marie Lu’s Legend trilogy – many different nations are shown, both with their positives and negatives. It asks the question of what makes a country good or bad. Many novels, especially contemporary fiction, include coming-of-age themes. With all of these in mind, I think it’s fair to say that YA isn’t afraid of talking about the tough stuff in life.
3) Well-Written Characters
I personally prefer character-driven plotlines, so naturally, I love a well-written character. This doesn’t necessarily mean a “strong” character, as some books may have you believe, but I mean a character that is well rounded. He/she has strengths and weakness, triumphs and failures. Most importantly, the character is relatable. For the most part, the YA books I’ve read have excelled in this regard. Some of my favorite YA characters include: June Iparis, Deryn Sharp, America Singer, Sage (The False Prince), Alex Rider, and Percy Jackson.
(Of course, there are plenty of YA books that don’t have good characters at all, but for the sake of discussion, I’m focusing on the good stuff. Perhaps another day I’ll talk more about bad character tropes)
4) Variety of Genres
On the surface, it might not seem like there’s a whole lot of variety in YA. You have your Joh Green-esque contemporary novels, a boatload of dystopian novels, plus some fantasy or sci-fi thrown in there for good measure. However, this is not the case.
Young Adult books have just as much variety as books intended for other age groups. Just speaking for what I’ve read, there’s steampunk (Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy), spy novels (Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series), historical fiction (Countdown by Deborah Wiles), fairy tales with a dystopian twist (Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles), contemporary fantasy (anything by Rick Riordan), and, so, so much more. Although it may seem like YA just sticks to what’s trending, the reality is that there’s so much more to be found.
5) Wide Appeal
Here’s the thing: While they may be called “young adult” books, that doesn’t mean only teenagers are allowed to read them. In fact, of all book age ranges, I think YA has the most widespread appeal. Granted, there is some overlap between age ranges, but even so, I think many good YA books appeal to teens and adults alike. I know that even when I’m no longer considered a teen, I’ll still be reading YA.
Of course, there are many other things I love about young adult books, but this list sums up what’s stuck out to me. It is not without its faults, but there are definitely a lot of bright spots too.
What are some of your favorite things about young adult books? Leave a comment below and let me know! I’d love to hear what you have to say!
See you next week!