Young Adult, in the literary world, means teenager-targeted. Sometimes, well, it also means teenager-minded. Like, “[Insert adult figure] just doesn’t understand” or “He touched me on the arm…what does it mean?” Or, the setting or plot is simplistic and without depth – because, you know, kids are so easily distracted.
The Hunger Games trilogy is pretty decent as far as YA fiction goes, but I got tired of even that after book 2. (I haven’t read book 3, Mockingjay, yet, though I kind of know what happens, and I do intend to read it.)
Over Christmas I read Divergent. It took maybe a day and a half. It was a page turner (or a button clicker if you’re using a Kindle). The story was mildly compelling but without much depth. It was almost as if the author said, “It’s a book for teenagers; it should lack complexity and depth.” Not necessarily lacking in shock value or seriousness (a friend told me the spoilers for the following two books, because there’s no way I’m wasting my time reading them) but underestimating the thoughtfulness and intelligence of teenagers who read.
After I finished Divergent, I started The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I started with some trepidation, given how YA lit let me down with Divergent, but I had a really good recommendation that it was an excellent book.
And, it is. Green doesn’t shy away from complexity, symbolism, respectable adult authority figures, the real effect of tragedy on the heart, or even just plain clever writing. His writing expects intelligence from the reader. His protagonists are believable teenagers. What’s a believable teenager? Someone who thinks, processes, and acts with passion, and is often painfully honest.
If you treat teenagers like they’re shallow, you will have shallow teenagers.
I’ve been watching John Green’s YouTube videos (see vlogbrothers) for a while but hadn’t read any of his books yet. Wow I’ve been missing out. Give them a try and you might have any lost faith in YA lit restored.