Some of my favourite and most-loved books fall under the umbrella of the young adult (YA) genre. However, my recent impressions of YA books have been lukewarm at best. This isn’t because I don’t think YA is real literature, because it is. Society tends to brush off what young women (and men) like to read as frivolous fluff, but hey, if it’s a book everyone loves, it must be good in one way or another.
My recent disenchantment with the YA genre mainly stems from four problems.
SAME CONTRIVED, UNORIGINAL PLOT. How familiar does this sound: 16-18 year old girl on the cusp of womanhood vehemently denies that she’s beautiful and suddenly discovers a shocking secret that threatens to unravel her life as it is. She is “the chosen one,” destined for something greater. There is an evil force of villainy X that goes against everything she stands for and all that she loves. Along her journey to rid herself of such villainy, girl meets boy who is Mr. Perfect and way-too-good-for-her, and there is an instant, electrifying attraction that defies the laws of nature.
And that brings me to my next problem with a lot of YA books—
INSTA-LOVE. Fact: It doesn’t happen. It just isn’t realistic. Sure, you might be attracted to someone you just met because you laugh at the same dumb jokes, or if that person is really easy on the eyes, but you don’t profess your grand three-word declaration and stake your claim on that person’s heart within 27 pages.
GENERALIZATIONS AND STEREOTYPES. If I were to tell you that I am a total nerd at heart, what comes to mind? A girl with thick glasses and braces? Someone who is always at odds with the “popular, preppy” (yet another label) kids? I don’t get the chance to tell you that I love roses and baby’s breath, or that I enjoy listening to Oh Wonder and DEAN. You wouldn’t know that traveling is one of my favourite things to do, or that I’m part of my university’s figure skating team. Most everyone has a wide scope of interests, and that’s because we are people, not caricature-like stereotypes.
LACK OF DIVERSITY. This can be interpreted in more than one way. While I think that many new releases have done a decent job of including more diverse characters in terms of ethnicity and sexual orientation, I still lament the fact that there isn’t more complexity in story premises. I don’t want to read another re-telling of a childhood classic or fairytale. I don’t want to read another book about a two-dimensional girl who looks the same as every other protagonist in a YA novel. There needs to be more representation of characters from all walks of life, and it’s up to our generation to fulfill this desire for diversity.
That being said, I don’t think I’ll necessarily stop reading YA altogether. Instead, I would like to branch out and read more contemporary, classics, and anything thought-provoking. Some titles I’ve been eyeing for a while include:
- Pachinko (Min Jin Lee)
- Little Fires Everywhere (Celeste Ng)
- A Gentleman in Moscow (Amor Towles)
- The Great Alone (Kristin Hannah)
- The Old Man and the Sea (Ernest Hemingway)
- The Beautiful and the Damned (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
- Beneath a Scarlet Sky (Mark Sullivan)
- The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane (Lisa See)
If you have any recommendations for me, please feel free to message me or leave a comment!
4 thoughts on “my disillusionment with young adult literature”
hi zelle! 👋 I totally get what you mean and share the same opinion. (Insta Love is the worst honestly.) Something I have also seen too many times is the girl and the boy hate each other at first but ‘slowly’ fall in love later…
I highly recommend to take a look at historical fiction such as ‘a skinful of shadows’ by frances hardinge or ‘stalking jack the ripper’ by kerri maniscalco. They are ya books but you don’t have these stereotypes etc. there.
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hey linda! i’d have to say that historical fiction is definitely one of my favourite genres 🙂 ‘stalking jack the ripper’ was such an interesting read (i love audrey and THOMAS CRESSWELL) and i’ll have to look into ‘a skinful of shadows,’ thank you so much!
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I’d recommend American psycho, stranger in a strange land, watership down, and a god in ruins. Just some of the books I read recently that were noteworthy.
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thanks michael! i’ve heard a lot of good things about american psycho (wasn’t this also made into a movie a while back?) and watership down, actually :’)