I am not a young adult by any stretch of the imagination, but I am absolutely a huge fan of YA Fiction, YA as in Young Adult. If you go searching for a definition or an age range for this type of literature, you won’t find one upon which everyone agrees. Generally, YA literature is officially marketed to those between the ages of 12 and 25 (yes, a very wide age range). The reality is that many, many adults of any age read YA Fiction. There have even been some books that have started out as adult fiction, but have gravitated toward YA over time- Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, now on many required high school summer reading lists, is a good example of that movement.
YA Fiction includes every genre you will find in adult fiction – chick lit, traditional romance, Christian fiction, historical fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, dystopian, steampunk, and more. The difference is that the main characters are generally in their teenage or young adult years. YA fiction often explores complex themes, just like adult fiction. And much of the writing is, well, superb, as good as anything you find in adult fiction.
I gravitate toward dystopian, sci-fi, steampunk and some sci-fi/fantasy YA novels. I don’t like vampires and werewolves , but I did read Twilight (and did not like it for particular reasons).
YA fiction is often series based, and one I often recommend is The Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness. The first novel is The Knife of Never Letting Go.Picture another planet colonized by humans where all the women have been killed by a germ (or so the story goes) and all the males remaining can hear every other male thought, 24/7/365, which they call The Noise. The last kid remaining has reached the age where he must now must go through his adult initiation, but his guardians work to get him to escape the colony because the ritual and the secret behind it is so awful. That sets off an engrossing, emotional, tense story that asks the reader to look at questions about choices, failure and forgiveness, the power of love, the power of evil, truth, lies, manipulation, all wrapped up in what we call human nature. It’s about the idea that life is grey, not black and white, but in Ness’ world black and white are bad, and so is the grey, and you have to try to tease out the little bit of good that might be hiding. Plus Ness’ story also is a commentary about our modern society and its flaws. Oh, and you have to decide what it means to be human, with the story coming at you at 100 miles an hour.
If you dive into The Chaos Walking Trilogy, it’s better in print, because Ness provides images of what The Noise is really like.
So try YA. You might be glad you did. (Posted by Nancy Novak, Children’s Librarian)