May 22, 2024


Entertain Reaching Stars

Young Adult Fiction – Literature or Fad?

3 min read

In oral or written literature, telling the tales of adolescents is probably as old as human history. The type of fiction called young adult fiction, on the other hand, is the joint creation of the American experience and the second half of the twentieth century.

From ancient Greek myths like Daphnis and Chloe or Persephone to later works of drama, men and women have become the protagonists of adventures in their teen years. When Shakespeare told the tale of Romeo and Juliet, he was talking of adolescent lovers. After that time, novels and stories like Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, Heidi, Little Women, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, The Secret Garden, Anne of Green Gables and Rebecca of the Sunnybrook Farm found fascinated readers for decades.

What we call young adult fiction, shortened to YA fiction, came into existence after the Second World War with the onset of the Rock’n Roll era. The stories of young adult fiction are written for teenagers and are told from the point of view of teenagers. The protagonists are adolescents and a good number of the plots involve teen problems and the way the teens face and overcome them. Since with each decade the teen problems have changed, the stories portraying those problems have also changed.

From the inception of the young adult fiction, sociologists praise its stories, because the teens find out how problems similar to theirs can be handled. These problems can be loneliness, weight or health issues, family and peer troubles, teen pregnancy, or depression.

In contrast to those who applaud young adult fiction, a very small group claim that reading too much young adult fiction has been alienating the teen readers from real literature. Yet, the study of literature challenges these critics, because good fiction cannot be classified. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, some Stephen King novels like Carrie, and Lord of the Flies by William Golding may fit inside the definition of young adult fiction, but time has proven them to be a lot more than popular fiction of the moment. These books are classics.

In addition, quite a few young adult fiction awards have caused young adult fiction to qualify as literature. Some of these are: Newberry Award, National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Fiction, William C. Morris YA Debut Award, Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Young Adult Novel, Michael L. Printz Award, Margaret A. Edwards Award, etc.

First young adult novels in the US came into being during the forties and fifties. Then, between the sixties and the nineties, young adult fiction flourished. Writers like Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume led the way in addressing teen dilemmas to become the icons of such literature.

Today, with the advent of e-books, religious fiction directed to teens, manga, graphic novels, and techno-thrillers, young adult fiction is branching out into subcategories and is becoming more deeply rooted in popular literature. Some of these stories, like that of J. K. Rowling’s and Gabriel Zevin’s, challenge the imaginations of teen readers by removing their plots and characters far away from reality into fantasy.

The history of young adult fiction may not be too old, but its future appears to be very bright. Since the best books are those that the readers can relate to, multitudes of teens have turned to reading voraciously, leaving unbeneficial pursuits aside. On the whole, this is no measly feat.

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