A-Z Challenge,  Writing

Y is for YA

I am always trying to read more YA, and I do read a fair amount of it. But I always struggle with this genre. There are some YA novels that I have loved immensely. And yet, quite often, I find myself annoyed, exasperated, or bored with the YA novels I read. This isn’t, for the most part, because I am now an adult, either. When I was a teen, I never read YA. I read adult literature, and I would have had many of the same frustrations as I do now.

So, I guess I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with YA! Here are some of the things I like and dislike about YA, in comparison with adult literature (I read quite a bit of MG, too, but that’s a totally different kind of comparison, so I will avoid it for now). Note: There are exceptions to everything I say…these are just general things I’ve noticed in my own reading.

What I love about YA:

          The possibilities: Teenage years are, I think, the most interesting of years. Teens are stuck in a weird zone, still half children – stuck in developmental stages and living at home, going to school, and relying on others for pretty much everything –  and half-adult – starting to work, planning for the future, preparing to go off into the “real” world, and discovering who they are/what they want to be. YA books get to explore living in this zone, the troubles and exceptional abilities of this age. I love that.

          The settings: I find adult genre books difficult to break into. There are cop dramas, following the same cop or detective throughout a bunch of murder cases. Science Fiction and Fantasy are intense, fully developed worlds that sometimes tend to be more about the world itself than about the characters or story lines. In YA, however, we get more character-centric versions of these interesting worlds, in well-developed yet simpler ways.

          The characters: Teens are allowed to be more interesting than adults, I think. I find in YA books, characters are allowed to have the weirdest obsessions/interests/hobbies/personalities, which you don’t often see in adult literature.

          The writing: I like language, I do. But sometimes in adult literature, things get a bit too flowery for my taste. I dislike when it takes five pages just to describe the landscape, and I don’t enjoy when you have to re-read everything because so many obscure words are thrown together that you can’t even understand what was said. YA tends to be more to the point, and I enjoy that. More story, less everything else.

What I don’t love about YA:

          The writing: This goes both ways! While simplified writing is fine, I do notice that sometimes the writing of YA is a bit too simplified. Many teens can read at an adult level, and I believe they should be challenged to enhance their reading skills. A few big words or complex sentence structures won’t hurt. And, unfortunately, I don’t see much of this in YA.

          The love triangles: I won’t get into this in much detail. But I seriously hate these things, and they are EVERYWHERE in YA. Ugh.

          The immaturity: Honestly, adult lit is just as guilty of this, I think. But I dislike immature characters, and you see them a lot in YA. Yes, I understand that many teens are immature at least in some respects. But I still enjoy mature characters, and they don’t appear in YA as much as I’d like them to.

          The boundaries: I think we’re moving away from this, which is good. But I do still find that YA books tend to follow patterns and stick within limits. There are many topics that seem kind of taboo in YA, unless it’s an issues-oriented book. I’d really like to see some more boundary pushing in YA. Teens can handle it, and if they can’t, they won’t read the book, anyways. I think many teens are eager to explore the uniqueness of the world in books, as well, and YA books are private, because they are written for teens. So I say give them a little more!

There you have it. Again, there are exceptions to everything I’ve mentioned, but those are some of the things I’ve noticed about YA that I either love, or don’t love.

How about you? Do you read YA? What do you like/dislike about YA literature?


  • Brandon Ax

    I tend to agree with you. When I was writing Elemental I had not done a ton of research into where it would fit into the market. My character was 18, but still in high school so YA was where the book went. I still at times think of this as a marketing ploy, but I guess everything needs its labels.

  • David List

    First off, I'm glad I re-found your blog! I remember when you first started it several months ago. It's come a long way! I had a list of like 20 blogs I was following during April, then it got lost… then I ran across yours! (again!)
    I'm with you on your gripes of YA. The one book that especially turned me off of the genre (category?) was Maze Runner. In the first 150 pages, it suffered from 3 of the four gripes you mentioned… whether or not there was a love triangle, I don't know. I put the book down after page 150ish.

  • Deshipley

    Pros, the writing. Cons, the writing. Lol, yup. I agree with many of your other points, too.
    YA's a great genre, but I feel it often limits itself. Give the teens some credit; they can handle a book that breaks molds!

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