Friday, June 09, 2006

Will We Ever Be Able To Define YA Lit?

Another interesting discussion at Readerville today. This one was in the Young Adult Lit forum and it involved the question "What is Young Adult literature, anyway?"

Interestingly enough, many of the authors whose essays were published in the May issue of Locus addressed that topic either directly or indirectly. Some of the things a few of the writers had to say:

Scott Westerfeld:"When you're writing about adults, there are a lot of false conflicts. But I feel like I am forcing the dramatics less when I write about teens, because conflicts can flare up and go away really quickly. That lends itself to adventure and intensity. If you have a bad day when you're 50, it's just another bad day, but have a bad day when you're ten, it's a disaster."

Ursula K. LeGuin: "There was a period about 20 years ago or so, when the editors thought that young-adult books had to tackle very contemporary problems...Now that's all over with; they overdid it, they ran the social relevance into the ground."

Jonathan Stroud: "In general terms, adults are prepared to put up with all kinds of digressions and fallow patches in their reading; a lot of adult fiction (in all genres) is consequently self-absorbed and tedious. Children are much more choosy. If something bores them, they toss it in the bin. This breeds efficiency in the telling: children's fiction tends to be swift and supple, qualities which adults are discovering they quite like, too."

Holly Black: "The teenage years are the point where many people stop reading, so keeping kids reading and keeping them interested in books is a really great thing to be able to do. With middle-grade and slightly younger books, these are people you're making into readers...They call middle grade the golden age of reading because that's when kids have a lot of time to read and they can go through an enormous number of books in an extremely short time. That's when they become readers for life. There's a lot of competition for kids' attention...But there's a lot of pleasure for kids to read books in series because they can read so much. They want the next book, then the next one."

These writers had a lot of interesting things to say even if, like me, you're not a serious sci-fi reader, just a dabbler. I definitely had a better respect for fantasy after finishing this magazine, if only because it keeps kids reading. And Holly Black definitely made me feel more positive about series with what she had to say about how they encourage children to read.

I believe the new issue of Locus is out, but if you're interested in YA or sci-fi/fantasy it would be worth your time to track down a copy of the May issue.

2 comments:

Camille said...

As a librarian I adore series because they do exactly what Black describes. They keep the readers coming back again and again. If the idea is to get the words passing below their eyes then series books absolutly fill the bill. I tried reading a Nancy Drew books recently and could not force my eyeballs to advance across the page but I LOVED them as a kid and I am a reader now.

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