Now that I’m twenty-one years old, I am well outside the age range of “young adult” novel protagonists, who are usually sixteen to seventeen. But it continues to be one of my favorite things to read, especially at school. So, why is it worth reading YA novels in college?
YA is sometimes disregarded as less serious than classic literature, and therefore less important. But that really isn’t fair! Young adult novels frequently handle serious themes, both beautiful ones, like love and family, and more difficult experiences, like abuse and trauma. Just because it wasn’t written more than fifty years ago doesn’t mean it can’t have literary value. Young adult literature has some of the most beautifully written prose and emotionally moving stories I’ve ever read.
In fact, the language of young adult literature is a huge part of the appeal. Everybody gets tired of reading for class. I’ve read about nine novels for my American Literature class this semester, and as interesting as discussion of literary classics is, man is Catch-22 difficult to read. It’s exhausting when you have to spend your reading time deciphering what the author is trying to say because of old fashioned vocabulary or fancy stream-of-consciousness narratives.
In a lot of young adult literature, you can get a complex plot and well developed characters who play out their story without getting wrapped up in confusing language. It’s the perfect relief for your brain’s inevitable frustration with the complexities of organic chemistry or the infuriating prose of Faulkner. Sometimes, you need a break. YA can provide your brain with stimulation without making it work quite so hard for the answer.
Also, young adult literature has something for everyone. Looking for a story about a cute summer romance? Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour. Sweeping high fantasy? The Demon King by Cinda Chima Williams. Terrifying dystopia? UnWind by Neal Shusterman. YA encompasses so many great genres. Mystery, horror, romance, science fiction, historical fiction. There’s a YA novel out there just calling your name. Go find it!