Today’s Guest is TJ from Dreams & Speculation. TJ is a Speculative Fiction blogger who does on occasion read YA. She has a careful eye for detail, an open mind, and is always honest in her reviews. Today she examines at length what went into her decision to begin reading YA as an adult.
Paolo Bacigalupi, Maria V. Snyder, Cory Doctorow, Jeri Smith-Ready, Rachel Vincent, Scott Westerfeld, Carrie Vaughn, Ann Aguirre, Neil Gaiman, Ursula K. Le Guin, China Miéville, and Brandon Sanderson.
I have a reason for listing all these talented, popular, and/or award-winning authors. They all have something in common, you see. They all write fiction for young adults as well as for adults.
Young adult fiction is perhaps now more popular than ever. Who could have missed noticing the Twilight obsession or the anticipation for Mockingjay? Or how about Harry Potter? Quite honestly, it almost seems like YA fiction has the ability to motivate and bring together large, diverse groups of readers–perhaps more so than any other genre.
But I may be getting ahead of myself. You see, I’m actually pretty new to young adult fiction. When I was a young adult it was a point of pride that I read books from the adult shelves. (Indeed, there were a lot of adults around who would always act shocked or praise me for scorning materials written for my age.) Once in awhile, I would find something that suited my interest, but it wasn’t often. I do remember having a beat up copy of Shade’s Children that I read and re-read. I probably should have known then that YA had some great authors and titles. But I wanted to feel “grown up,” so I read what grown ups read. Later, when I became an adult I felt that Young Adult fiction probably had very little to offer that an adult would enjoy.
So it wasn’t until about two years ago that I finally discovered how great Young Adult fiction can be. Actually, I started with The Hunger Games. At the time, I was a bookseller and everyone had started raving about the book. Well, I felt really left out as one of the only people in the store who hadn’t read it. Plus, Stephenie Meyer had plugged Suzanne Collins on her website and great rushes of Twilight fans were coming in to check out the book. They’d ask how I’d liked it–and I didn’t have an answer.
I broke down. I borrowed a copy and set to reading. Immediately I noticed several things about YA fiction: (1) it reads fast, (2) it’s purely entertaining, and (3) it’s just as good–if different–as adult fiction. I managed to burn through The Hunger Games in one night. Boy, I was pissed that I had to wait a year for Catching Fire (which I unfortunately ended up not liking as well, but that’s neither here nor there). The next day I returned the book and was in a stunned stupor during my shift. Every time I opened my mouth something about The Hunger Games fell out. I even made the mistake of rambling on about how good it was despite being young adult fiction to the kids/YA section seller. Being the nice person that she is, the only scolding I got was: “Of course! Did you expect differently?”
Well, the gentle scolding was enough to get me to shut my mouth and start experimenting in the YA section. In the next two years, I discovered a great number of amazing books (some of my favorites I discovered in that time span are: Kristin Cashore’s Fire and Graceling, Lisa Mantchev’s Eyes Like Stars, Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, Justine Larbalestier’s Liar, and Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth.)
But even as I was discovering how much great fiction is available to teens, I noticed something else: a lot of these authors were authors I already knew. Some of them I had read. Ursula K. Le Guin was on my “serious science fiction” list, but also had some books in the YA shelves. Neil Gaiman’s books seemed to be shelved both places with little rhyme or reason to the organization. Even Brandon Sanderson has a YA series! And then I noticed that certain publishers were starting YA imprints. When they did, they would have pre-established adult authors write for the new imprint. A great example is Harlequin Teen, which kicked off its line of books with Gena Showalter and Rachel Vincent.
And, well, I though to myself: I wish someone had told me that even these great authors don’t judge YA like I had once. Maybe if I had noticed the Le Guin YA series earlier, I would have been more open to YA as a whole–but I never gave it enough of a chance.
The final straw to my mental block against YA was relatively recently. At this point, I had read a bunch of YA and loved a lot of it, but I still had a hard time admitting to reading it. There was a level of that shame remaining from my teen years of scorn. What happened was that I had fallen in love with the writing of Paolo Bacigalupi. I read his Pump Six and Other Stories and The Windup Girl and both were on my list of favorite books ever written. And then he announced his next book would be for young adults: Ship Breaker.
Well, I said to myself: That’s it. If Paolo Bacigalupi can write YA, I sure can read it and enjoy it without being embarrassed about it.
For those who might be where I was a year or two ago and feel reticent about reading YA, I recommend giving a few YA titles a shot. You just might be surprised in what the genre has to offer. Here are three recommendations from authors who also write adult fiction that you might consider:
|Maria V. Snyder Inside Out
Snyder’s Inside Out is a clever look at the divide between social classes, ill-treatment of children, being an outsider/not fitting in, and has a wonderful twist of an ending. To say more than that would be spoiling the fun, but I can say that Inside Out is an interesting dystopia and entertaining–what more could one need from a book?
|Cory Doctorow Little Brother
Doctorow asks a lot of serious questions in Little Brother: should we sacrifice freedom for security? How far should be trust our own government? What can people–or the government–do with technology? What are the ethics of those uses? If those questions don’t seem like “YA” to you, then I advise reading Little Brother, because YA is and can be as serious as that.
|Paolo Bacigalupi Ship BreakerBacigalupi has shown in his Pump Six and The Windup Girl that he has an interest in the environment–and how people treat other people. Neither of these important themes disappears because he’s writing for a younger crowd. Ship Breaker bravely faces off against environmental concerns, poverty, and a slew of other things–and packs it into a neat, fast-paced ball of action. I didn’t like it quite as well as his other books, but it certainly is a clever way to introduce people to his ideas and writing–so I recommend it.|