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Thoughts On: Articles about YA Books (Or lack thereof)

Maureen Johnson tweeted the other day and linked to an article in The Guardian about the top ten books about friendship for teens. Only one was actually YA. And it was The Outsiders, written 44 years ago.

Maureen said,

When I talk (rant insanely) about media coverage of YA, this is sort of what I mean. You either get the "THESE FILTHY BOOKS WILL KILL YOUR CHILDREN" piece, or you get nothing. Even when the article is ABOUT TEENAGE BOOKS. "Maybe she doesn't read YA? Nothing wrong with that" Not for her, you're right. But, as I just said, we see this over and over. The articles are usually shock-horror, or they don't even acknowledge YA. And if you run a BOOKS section, you need to acknowledge the books. YA is MASSIVE, and there are so many EXCELLENT, LITERARY books there that people just pretend don't exist. I just don't think you can have a good books section that ignores a massive number of books, and for no good reason.

I have to agree with Maureen. Don't get me wrong, the books on the Guardian's list aren't bad by any means (give me some Jane Eyre any day!), but they're not YA. If you're writing about friendships for teens, you'd think that would be included.

Why isn't YA included in publications? (Entertainment Weekly, I exempt you from this. You feature YA. I like you.)

It seems strange to me. I grew up in an area that really supported YA and all things teen, really - my libraries have HUGE YA sections and all the librarians I talk to (because I'm the nerdy girl that does that stuff) really like YA. My local paper features a teen section every week which usually has a book review or two in it; occasionally I write for them. (I've done coverage of BookExpo America for them for the past two years running.) My blog is affiliated with their website. All the bookstores carry large amounts of YA. YA is read by the teachers in my high school.

So when I see it being so excluded from - well, just about everywhere else - or being insulted by - well, just about anybody that writes the articles - I have to wonder why.

I think I've narrowed it down to a few problems:

One: The wrong people are writing these pieces.
There's a distinct possibility that many of the writers of these articles or editors of these articles or people who publishing these articles have little or no experience with YA whatsoever. This is an understandable problem (see problem two), but it's one that's rather easy to correct. There is a LARGE number of YA authors who are willing to write about YA books, should an article on YA books be desired. It's silly to choose an adult crime writer or a elementary school teacher or somebody who knows nothing about the genre to write about the genre.

Two: People fear what they don't know.
Like I said, there's a distinct possibility that the writers/editors/publishers of these articles have little or no experience with YA. Young adult fiction is a HUGE genre, but it's a genre that's only cropped up recently. For a long time, there was no young adult genre; every now and then, there would simply be a novel with a teenage protagonist.

Now that there IS a young adult genre, people can make money off of writing about it - but they can only judge based on what they see. They look around at the popular novels and go, "Harry Potter! That's a great story! But... Twilight is about a girl who is so boy obsessed she's willing to give up everything to live with a depressed psycho forever. And The Hunger Games is about kids killing kids. And when I walk into Barnes and Noble, all I see are the dark paranormal covers!"

I'm not saying this is the right mentality to have; however, it would explain a lot - on why editors let the writers get away with writing nasty things about how there's nothing good in YA, and why there are so few articles about the great things in them. I would love for this mentality to change soon, but in order for that to happen, they'd have to get up and read some YA. A girl can dream - but I doubt that will happen, so I can just hope that as my generation grows up and begins to take control of publications, things will change.

Three: YA acknowledges that teens have voices - which also scares adults.
Teenagers aren't stupid. Teenagers aren't oblivious. Teenagers don't need to be coddled. Teenagers don't need to be hidden from the world.

But some adults still don't realize that. But they do realize YA gives them the voices they need, the voices they deserve.

And thus, they run and hide from the brilliant literature that YA can be and scorn it for being too dark -

- because, you know Jane Eyre's main plot point isn't about a crazy woman being locked up in the attic.

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Thoughts On: Articles about YA Books (Or lack thereof) + TIME