So I’m a grown man who loves YA and I’m not ashamed. My dad had never heard the term YA (pronounced like your kindergarten teacher taught you to read, WHY-AY). After I explained to him that it was shorthand for “Young Adult Fiction,” he told me, “Your English profs at Westmont are probably thinking about retro-actively lowering your inflated GPA.” Thanks Dad. If they made YA books about WWII, I know you’d be down. In fact, I bet they have, I just don’t research stuff—it’s too hard.
Anyway, here are 7 serious or silly rules about why YA rules:
1. Cuts the fat that ruins a lot of other books. There are no ten-page descriptions of the weather, less irritating side plots, minimal ten-dollar words, and no gratuitous “adult” situations. What you have left is just a good story with normal words where the plot actually matters and the characters learn a valuable lesson about life.
2. If it’s a trilogy or a heptalogy, you have the option of quitting after the first (and usually best) book and just reading the synopsis on Wikipedia—saving yourself time while still being cool and knowing what’s up. The exception here would be The Chronicles of Narnia. I can’t reread those enough.
3. The name IS the game. The more ridiculous the names, the better the book. Sometimes. Now this applies better to series or trilogies than single books, but follow me here. Katniss, Peeta, Tris, and Four are WAY better characters than Bella, Edward, Cassia, or Ky. Bonus points if you can name all the books those are from.
The solution? In the 2009 comedy, Gentlemen Broncos, the evil Dr. Ronald Chevalier hosts a “Name Seminar” Fantasy fiction workshop, to help aspiring young authors whose “character names are suffering.” He has a rule called “The Power of the Suffix” by which you add or replace the suffix of a name with things like “ONIUS, AINOUS, ANOUS, ODIUS, IVOURUS, ORPHOUS, ISIUM, or ATHIEM” in order to make the character better and more believable. So turn Bella into Bellonius and Edward into Edainous and you’ve got yourself a winner. Try it out on your own name. Or don’t.
4. Cynics need not apply. “I love the adolescent perspective. The characters are not yet shaped by the hardships of life—their eyes and hearts are open,” says Lisa Anderson, a freelance writer who happens to be my sister. Basically, after we come of age, time becomes a flat circle (á la Rustin Cohle) and we can get cynical and jaded about the cyclical nature of problems. These books take us back to a time when the entire world is set before us and there are solutions to those problems.
5. Buzzfeed will invariably come out with a “Which character are you quiz?” that will pop up on your Facebook feed and you can’t not take it, lying to get just the right person so you can brag to all of your friends. They’ll do this with Hunger Games and the like, but not an adult fiction book like Gone Girl. You don’t want to be ANY character from Gone Girl. Awesome book by the way, the ending will either make you slow clap or punch a wall. Either way, invoking emotion proves it’s good.
6. Teachers love it, and you have to love teachers. “Anytime I can find a story that will get my kids to read, I’m for it. I also use popular YA novels as tools when teaching,” says Stephanie Scott, a middle school teacher. “For example, when teaching internal vs. external conflict, we talk about Katniss’ conflicting feelings vs. the real physical threats from the Capitol and the arena. When teaching theme, we talk about the many themes in Harry Potter. Also, the current trend in YA is using strong female protagonists, which I appreciate as it has helped dispel gender stereotypes for both my male and female students.”
7. AND THE REASON YA SELLS LIKE HOTCAKES: “I will never again get to feel those maelstroms of hormone induced emotion,” says Susan Boyles, a mom of two. “Except through YA (and living vicariously through the kids, but that’s not as fun).”
So there you have it. What are your reasons for loving YA? Or for not loving it? What are your favorite reads?
In the meantime, check out the YA section of goodreads.com if you’re looking for recommendations.