The Discussion Post – YA Fiction

Growing up I was a massive reader, there wasn’t much I wouldn’t read as a child, everything from Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, children’s classics such as The Secret Garden and more modern at the time books such as Jacqueline Wilson’s The Suitcase Kid. As I got older I moved on to some other fantastic books, Harry Potter, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials and the Noughts and Crosses series by Malorie Blackman.

There was a bit of a gap in my early and mid twenties but recently I’ve started reading a lot of YA fiction again. It’s a very popular area of book blogging so I got my hands on a couple of recent releases and reminded myself just how good YA fiction is.

All of this got me thinking, does YA fiction get the love and respect it deserves?

I think that one of the main issues with YA fiction is that too many people view YA fiction as a single genre and not a primary target audience. Classifying a novel’s target audience is important without doubt, it helps a marketing team nail down the publicity push for starters. But perhaps this makes it too easy from some people to gloss over the breadth of wonderful YA fiction available. Having looked back at the way I’ve tagged some of my reviews it’s certainly something I’ve been guilty of and intend to rectify over the course of the few days. In the past few months I’ve read YA books across a wide spectrum, from thrillers and mysteries, to romance, contemporary and science fiction and I’ve barely scratched the surface. You wouldn’t expect to just see all ‘adult’ fiction lumped into one genre so why do we do that with YA fiction?

I also think that as they are books primarily marketed at young adults some people view them as children’s books and dismiss them. I don’t know if this may have a slight historical element to it, perhaps in the past some of the most mass-produced and well know YA series didn’t have the same quality as the books produced today. I feel like some people don’t take the time to realise that these books deal wonderfully with a wide range of topics that deserve to be handled sensitively but part of mainstream fiction.

Then it comes to awards – and this is something I think I’ll touch on again in a later post as I don’t think YA books is the only area where what I’m about to say is applicable – but why aren’t YA books more widely acknowledged? I’ve seen the shortlist for the YA Book Prize, and it’s full of fantastic books, personally I’ve not read enough of them, again something I need to rectify, but I know from talking to others these are very popular and widely read books. It’s great they’re getting this attention and they certainly deserve it, but why aren’t they also recognised in the ‘big’ book awards. From what I can see the only requirements for the Man Booker Prize, since the criteria was widened in 2013, is that it must be a full length novel, written in English and published in the UK. From this I can see no reason why a book written primarily for young adults shouldn’t be nominated for such a prize, but as far as I’m aware one never has been. Please correct me if I’m wrong!

These are just my quick ramblings late on a Saturday night in the middle of the SundayYAthon. I’m sure many a person out there has posted a much more eloquent and considered discussion on a similar topic

What do you all think? Does YA fiction get the respect it deserves or is it still looked down on by too many people?


15 thoughts on “The Discussion Post – YA Fiction

  1. Krysta

    YA is one of the most widely-read age ranges and I think the people who look down on it are very few and far between. Most avid readers will recognize its worth as does the academy. There are college courses and conferences for YA and children’s lit. However, it’s also true that all media associated with youth culture routinely struggles for artistic recognition. Middle grade, picture books, graphic novels/comics–all of them have been stigmatized and it’s still a surprise when something like Shaun Tan’s The Arrival wins a major award. (Incidentally, Tan has stated that he thought The Arrival was a picture book, but it was published in France as a graphic novel, and in the U.S. as a YA graphic novel. So certainly labels like “YA” are fluid and often are just marketing terms more than any meaningful designation about content or the difficulty of the syntax or ideas.)

    Interestingly enough, however, educators in high schools and elementary schools in particular seem to have difficulty recognizing some titles as art (if you look through their journals) as they remain focused on how books teach literacy. So if you look up graphic novels most journal articles by educators discuss whether a graphic novel can teach a student to read or if an adaptation of a classic work is worthy of being read based on how closely it hews to the original/how likely it is to point the student to the original. They tend not to conceive of graphic novels and adaptations as distinct art forms, even though scholarly critics have taken it as a matter of course for years that they are indeed valid art forms.

    I agree that YA is just a marketing term and it’s silly to judge a book for being YA when it could have just as easily been published as MG or YA–and you will often see books published as YA and adult, or shelved in libraries both in the MG and YA sections. However, YA books often share what we might call “generic” features such as love triangles, anachronistic feminist female leads, the bad boy love interest, the misunderstood geek girl, etc. They also tend to be plot-driven and feature coming-of-age stories, which makes them distinct from most adult titles.

    YA books are often like rom coms–you can predict what is coming and you actually expect certain things to occur. You’d be upset if the rom com didn’t end with the couple getting together and you’d be upset or surprised if the YA book didn’t get the sexy vampire and the female protagonist together. Genre can be conceived of as writing for audience expectations. So I sometimes discuss YA as a genre and sometimes as a marketing label depending on what I am talking about/want to emphasize.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sarah

      I’m glad that overall you feel it gets the recognition it deserves, and I think you’re right, many avid readers do recognise the quality of the writing. Maybe it’s different in the US but I feel, certainly in the UK, adults who don’t read as often, who haven’t studied English and aren’t involved in the book blogging community, still question why ‘proper grown ups’ are reading ‘children’s books’. Maybe it’s just the people I’ve experienced and it’s not a fair representative sample of people, or perhaps the views of people who aren’t avid readers aren’t as relevant/important.


      1. Krysta

        I can certainly find people on the street who might not respect YA, but I think that people invested in literature generally don’t dismiss YA. But every new art form takes awhile to get recognition. Films used to not be considered real art. TV shows and video games still aren’t “real art” to some people. It might take a few years but eventually the public accepts new things.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Briana

    I think YA is about as respected as it’s going to be. There are snobs about all kinds of books: fantasy books, romance novels, books that aren’t “classics.” I’m not sure we’re ever going to be in a place where “everyone” thinks YA is “real” literature, but there are people still huffing about Tolkien being non-serious fluff, so perhaps that’s just the way of things. In general, though, YA is a massively popular reading category, and if I recall correctly, does better with sales than adult books. YA is really propping up the industry.


    1. Sarah

      I completely agree YA fiction isn’t the only area in the literary world that suffers from this. It’s something I’ve been thinking about writing about in a wider sense in terms of some of the big literary prizes – and the sorts of books that are shortlisted and the snobbery that may or may not exist in the judging panels.


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  4. Laura

    I personally don’t feel that YA always gets the respect it deserves, and that’a quite sad really. YA books rarely win any prizes but the ones specifically for YA, as you say, and whilst I think on the whole in the blogging world reading YA is totally accepted (most bloggers do!), in the wider world I feel it is looked down on by some people, which is a shame. A lot of people are missing out on some great books just because they don’t want to read something they dismiss as ‘for kids’!
    Great post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sarah

      Thanks! I think a lot of the big book prizes are quite snobbish in general which I keep thinking I should write about – A lot of what I consider to be ‘genre’ fiction never seems to get a look in, whether that’s any YA books, or crime fiction etc, and yes I know a lot of crime fiction can be a bit formulaic but like everything there are some real gems out there, but as with YA it doesn’t seem to win anything apart from prizes specifically aimed at that genre, like the Dagger Awards. It’s a bit of a sore spot for me!


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  7. AvalinahsBooks

    Totally true about putting it all in one shelf! YA can be so different… I blog and read a lot myself, but I’ve found that YA will make me roll my eyes like 70% of the time, because there is so much “let’s just sell this and make money” crap that gets shelved along with the good ones just because “it’s YA”. It’s like putting literature and cheap vampire novels in one pile, I don’t know. So yeah, I think it would greatly benefit from having sub-categories.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. rebeccamix

    When I read YA it’s mostly scifi and fantasy, and it gets brushed off as being “for kids” and for girls. The latter is really frustrating, because I know a ton of guys that would probably love half of the YA high fantasy books I adore but there’s a weird stigma that that genre is “for girls.”
    There’s also this gross assumption that people reading YA don’t (or can’t) read anything else, as if by reading YA their tastes are somehow lesser. I DEFINITELY see that attitude towards genre fiction as a whole, so if it’s a YA genre book, it’s got both working against it.
    I have a story about this. Bear with me.
    I was a waiting in a NY airport for my flight and tearing through Leigh Bardugo’s Crooked Kingdom and loving it. Some older dude sat next to me and started doing that thing people do when they want you to talk to them so they make random comments that eventually lean into asking you direct questions. Mind you, my biggest pet peeve is when I’m trying to read and someone won’t leave me alone. So I was already annoyed.
    Dude looks at my book, frowns, and goes, “What book is that?”
    I explained what it’s about. He asked if it was YA, I said yes.
    The dude got this smirk on his face and said, “Oh, so it’s a kids book.”
    I tried to explain Bardugo deals with some pretty mature themes (like sex trafficking) and he cut me off and said, “Have you ever considered reading /real/ books?”
    Now at this point I am in no mood to be nice. I’m tired, my flight is late, and I just want to read! So all I said was, “Excuse me?”
    I don’t know if he thought this was an invitation to try and mansplain classics to me, but he proceeded to say shit like, “You know, Bradbury. Hemingway. Twain. Whitman. REAL authors. If you read books like those, you wouldn’t read that kids stuff. If you actually read real books, you’d understand.”
    I channeled as much of my withering Minerva McGongall as possible and said, “Actually, I have my bachelor’s in English Literature with a concentration in early American literature and Restoration era British Literature. And I still like these. I’ve read YA blows classics out of the water. If you actually read it, you’d understand.”
    He didn’t really have much to say, and I moved seats.
    Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time someone has assumed I read YA because I haven’t read “real” books *eyeroll*

    So no, I don’t believe YA gets the recognition it deserves. And don’t even get me started on how genre fiction is treated.

    Sorry for the giant comment! Apparently I have way more feelings about this than I thought.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sarah

      I loved the giant comment! And yes people assuming it’s not a real book is incredibly frustrating! Especially when you know full well they’ve never picked up a YA book in their lives!

      Liked by 1 person

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