What I Know About YA Literature

5 Things I Know About YA Literature

1. Tropes are a Thing

After reading the assigned articles for class, I realized that I was not losing my mind.  There are, in fact, numerous tropes that envelope much of the literature written for young adults, and the similarities I kept finding were indeed present.  However, it is important to contemplate why there are tropes within the genre and how they have managed to survive for so long.  I came to the conclusion that there are two major reasons this might be.  First, society may have changed, as will be explored in the next point, but there are fundamental characteristics that endure.  Second, the very core of what it means to be a youth, the physical, emotional, and mental changes, will be repeated by every single individual as long as the human race continues to survive and does not undergo some huge evolutionary shift.  Adolescents will always fall in and out of love as they grow and learn, their concerns and troubles will seem huge to them because it may their first time experiencing anything of the sort and the unknown is scary, and there are milestones that every adolescent is going to reach at some point and they are going to choose a path, no matter how many there are, that others have taken before them and will take after them.

2. Times may be Changing, but it is still Relatable

Young Adult Literature, even though most consider it to be solely for adolescents, has the ability to speak to readers of all ages.  Not only that, but it is, in many ways, almost timeless.  At some point or another, each and every one of us was a teenager with teenager problems and teenager hopes and dreams.  As such, the topics that were explored, for all that we adults may feel they are “childish”, were ones that we related to regardless of whether or not we wish to admit it.  Building upon that premise, it is not that much of a stretch to say that many of the topics evolved from the topics that young adults cared about decades or even centuries ago.  With that being said, the supposition can also be made that this could be why the young adult literature we read as teens is still read and still loved in some way, shape, or form and has, in turn, influenced the writing of the ya lit of today.

3. Heteronormativity is Everywhere

While the above point mentions how times are changing, in many ways society is still stuck in the past.  Everywhere I look, whether it be books, television shows, or movies, there is an overwhelming number of heterosexual couples being represented.  Now, I get that straight couples exist, but so do other kinds of couples as well.  Additionally, every time a gay couple, or a lesbian couple, or a couple featuring one or more partners from any area of the LGB+ spectrum, is featured more than once or twice per year, people act like “gayness” is being shoved down their throats and/or is “drowning out” the straight couples.  The imbalance is so prevalent, but one of the issues with privilege is that any reduction in it is seen as being disproportionately greater than it truly is.  Give me more gay couples, give me more asexual characters, give me more youth questioning their identity because that representation is essential to societal progress.  YA literature is slowly changing to meet this need, but not to the extent that it should be.  However, I do hold hope for the future and believe that there is a chance for other sexualities to be normalized just as much as heterosexuality.

4. It is Worthy of Attention

For reasons such as relatability and representation, it is essential that attention be brought towards and kept on young adult literature.  Not only is it crucial to societal change, but to individual change as well.  Without it, adolescents would be lacking a valuable resource in their psychosocial development process.  It gives individuals someone to look at and say, “They get it.  I’m not alone.”  Additionally, it introduces kids and teens to the issues present in their world and gives them a jumping off point to start formulating their own thoughts and opinions.  Who knows, hidden within the words and/or images of a book could be the potential for the next President of the United States or even the cure for cancer.

5. Don’t Discredit its Impact on Readers

Last, but not least, there is a point to be made about the impact of ya lit on readers of all ages.  As previously mentioned, a book could potentially trigger some of humanity’s greatest achievements, but it would not be possible if they were never written.  Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that we subvert some of the stereotypes assigned to the genre and overcome the bias against it.  It is okay to appreciate the classics for what they are, but how can we as a society continue to grow and thrive if we keep focusing on “classics” from a time period long past instead of assigning new ones that better represent the world and, as such, encourage even more growth and development.

Sourced from Pardesi* on Flickr


3 thoughts on “What I Know About YA Literature

  1. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that tropes are a thing! My husband and I spent Saturday discussing this same idea.
    I think that the thing that bothers me most is the negative connotation of trope or formulas. So what if it is the 25th SciFi-dystopian-fairy tale-adventure-romance? I think the point is that this is lit that people want to read.
    Do you think these themes/tropes have changed much in the last 5 years? 10? 15?
    Great summary of what you know!


  2. I love the last sentence of your final point. Classics are a good idea for everyone to have some knowledge about, but I do not think that the future of literature thrives because of classics. The future of literature will be based off of society like you said, and society has moved away from the situations that occur in the classics.


  3. Great point about heteronormativity. I also notice that whenever a book focuses on LGBTQ characters, all too often it’s about the struggle of identity. And that’s an important story, but it’s not the ONLY story there is to tell. I recently read Nina LaCour’s lovely Everything Leads to You and loved the fact that it was about happy, well-adjusted gay characters who weren’t having a lot of angst over their identity. There was angst over other stuff, because hey, it’s a YA novel, but the book wasn’t about the struggle for identity.


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