Not a single book market has had as much success while also having to justify its own existence as frequently as Young Adult literature. The questions, even and perhaps especially in the face of commercial hits, go as follows: why write books for a specifically teenage group? Their English classes feature “adult” books; it’s not like they can’t read literature meant for older people. Plus, aren’t adults the ones buying these books anyway? It’s the sort of worrying that was bound to crop up in an age full of silly hand-wringing about coddling young people.
It’s also a worry that ignores a lot of the actual value of Young Adult literature. Apart from featuring some of the most memorable stories readers of any age have ever encountered, YA also serves as a leading light in publishing issues of representation, inclusion, and diversity. It’s been the YA authors and publishers who are trying hardest to tell stories about people from a variety of backgrounds and circumstance. And when these decidedly less whitewashed books connect with younger readers still forming their worldviews, the results can only be positive.
Frankly, one doesn’t need to make an argument about the progressive spirit of YA in order to showcase it. The stories, which remain as entertaining and innovative as any being written for so-called adults, are doing that just fine on their own.
Rain Taxi’s best YA-themed reviews:
Review by Jay Besemer of Weird Girl and What’s His Name by Meagan Brothers (Winter 2015/2016, Online)
My Year Zero: An Interview With Rachel Gold by Stephen Burt (Summer 2016)
Review by Carrie Mercer of Falling In by Frances O’Roark Dowell (Spring 2011)