I often get asked, “What is YA?” First off, it stands for “Young Adult”, and YA lit has become quite the trend in publishing. This feature will regularly explore some of the themes and memes in YA. Our first exploration here is AUDIENCE. Who are YA books for? When ordering, I generally think of YA books for grades 6 -12. That can mean both subject and reading level. Sometimes, a YA book could easily be read by a student in grade 4 or 5, but the subject warrants a more mature reader (for example, the last few Harry Potter books). And sometimes, the subject may be ok for many Grade 5’s, but the book could be very long and/or the writing is geared toward those with a higher reading level. The reader is the final determinant, though, and for younger readers, their parents may want to help them decide on a book. Your 10 year old may be capable of reading that popular new vampire book, but will they have nightmares because of it? YA books are the gateway to mature reading, and as such, tend to touch on themes that are best handled by mature children.
Many adults find themselves drawn to YA books, and I think I know why, being one of those adults! (PS, it is ok if you adults want to read YA books. If you are too embarrassed to admit it, just pretend you are getting them for a teenager.) A good YA book gets right to it. The story is ready to go from the first chapter, and holds the reader till the end. Sometimes we have to wait several books before we really know what happens, but that is part of the draw. That’s not to say that you won’t find fine characterization and exploration of meaty issues, because in many YA books, that’s exactly what you’ll find; in fact, YA used to be called “Issue books” – remember Are you there God, it’s me, Margaret by Judy Blume? YA books tend to fit the detail in just where it is needed, and give the reader enough to make them want more, rather than making them wish that the author would just get on with it. The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking books, and Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver trilogy are good examples – great stories with engaging characters and settings that are easily gobbled up. Stay tuned for next episode, when we’ll look at the Vampire craze!
WHAT IS YA? Will be a monthly feature, published on the 15th of each month, written by Angela Reynolds, our Head of Youth Services. We are giving away YA books to go along with it! Make a comment below about one of the books we talked about, and you’ll be entered into a monthly draw for a YA review copy. Must be able to pick the book up at one of our branch libraries; no books will be shipped or mailed.
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