Once Again, Exactly What Is YA Literature?
Hooray for me. I finished the May/June 2004 issue of The Horn Book, which means that I am now only two issues behind. Again I'm going to tell you about a great article by Patty Campbell. (See 4/25/03 and 9/29/03 blog entries.)
In an article called Our Side of the Fence Campbell talks about definitions for YA literature, something she has done before. She says:
The central theme of YA fiction is becoming an adult, finding the answer to the question "Who am I, and what am I going to do about it?"
Whether it is told in first or third (or even second person), to be a YA novel a book must have a teen protagonist speaking from an adolescent point of view, with all the limitations of understanding this implies.
To be a YA novel, then, a book must have a climactic epiphany of new maturity as the subtext and be told in the YA voice from the limited adolescent viewpoint. In addition, it must be relevant to the lives of young readers in some way.
I couldn't agree more, especially regarding the central theme of YA fiction. And what could be a more important theme, at any point in life? I think the central theme for a lot of books about mid-life is the other side of the same coin. "Who am I, and what have I done about it?" The major theme of adolescence then, is linked to a major theme throughout literature.
I also agree that a good teen protagonist isn't all knowing in a mature sophisticated way because most adolescents aren't that way. That's a major complaint for me when reading books for young people.
And as far as "it must be relevant to the lives of young readers in some way" is concerned, well, yeah, it's about the kid. A lot of writers do forget that.
It's always a great pleasure to read an essay in which the author agrees with you on almost everything.