Young Adult Fiction! discussion

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message 1: by jacky (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:59AM) (new)

jacky I am interested in what others think about people's tendency to categorize classics as young adult literature.


message 2: by Malia (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:03PM) (new)

Malia | 3 comments The YA novel as we know it has only been in existence for the past twenty years. I am woman in her mid-thirties who doesn't remember this much choice from her teen years. If there were good YA novels, my librarians failed to steer me in that direction. So, I think the novels that are labeled as classics were the books that were read for years for lack of choice. These are also titles read in high school.


message 3: by Laura (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:03PM) (new)

Laura (laurahogan) | 16 comments I'm going to have to take issue with that -- YA has been around for way more than 20 years, Saying that YA literature has only been around for 20 years would mean that YA was invented around 1987. That's definitely not so. I'm 41, so was YA age in the 1970s, and read tons of YA literature qua YA literature (IOW, not just novels that were sort of designated things for kids to read, but novels that were written and marketed as being for the pre-adolescent and adolescent audience) in those years. Examples: Harriet the Spy; Freaky Friday; The Lottery Rose; The Slave Dancer; The Cat Ate My Gymsuit; The Outsiders; That Was Then, This is Now; anything by Judy Blume -- and those are just the few that come to mind immediately. All those books had copyright dates in the late 70s or before, and all were marketed to young adults.


message 4: by Malia (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:03PM) (new)

Malia | 3 comments Yes, they had YA in the '70s. However, there was not the choice there is today and the marketing there is today.


message 5: by Laura (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:03PM) (new)

Laura (laurahogan) | 16 comments Well, but that's true of anything you care to mention -- it's certainly true of cosmetics, TV shows, magazines, soft drinks, you name it. So if you're saying that the Marketing Machine in general wasn't as polished in the 70s and much of the 80s as it is now, I think that's true. Also, we didn't see the apotheosis of the teenager until about ten years ago or so. But that's a different thing from saying that the literature itself didn't exist until 1987, which is what you seemed to be saying above.

And while there were no series like "The Babysitters Club" and so forth in the 70s, it just isn't true that "The YA novel as we know it has only been in existence for the past twenty years," nor is it true, as you suggest, that there was a dearth of good YA novels in the 70s into the mid 80s, so that adolescents were obliged to read books written for an adult market. If you read a YA book like, say, "The Lottery Rose," which was originally published in 1976, or "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret," which was originally published in 1974 or so, I don't think you'll find them all that different from the YA published within the last five years or so.


message 6: by Laura (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:03PM) (new)

Laura (laurahogan) | 16 comments And I apologize for not really responding to Jacky, who started the thread. Jacky, could you clarify what you mean? I understand you to say that when something has attained the status of "classic," like, say, "Jane Eyre," it then tends to get pigeonholed as a YA book. Do I have that right?


message 7: by jacky (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:03PM) (new)

jacky "I understand you to say that when something has attained the status of "classic," like, say, "Jane Eyre," it then tends to get pigeonholed as a YA book. Do I have that right?"

Yes, that was what I was commenting on.

I personally find that annoying and inaccurate. There are a lot of amazing classics, but I don't agree with automatically calling them YA literature just because we expose students to them. For example, I am not an expert, but did Harper Lee write To Kill a Mockingbird for young adults? I want to say no, but I have never actually researched it. But I think we can safely say that most "classics" were not written for young adults because books were not marketed to that age group. So, I tend to get a little annoyed / disappointed when others jump to the classics when YA is being discussed. I'd rather hear about books where the author was writing deliberately for young adults. If I was interested in classics, I'd start a conversation on classics.

Does anyone else feel this way?


message 8: by Laura (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:03PM) (new)

Laura (laurahogan) | 16 comments I'd never thought about it before, but now that you mention it, I think that's exactly right.

I don't know what the reason for it is, but I can speculate: we want kids to read "quality" literature, and we tend to think that anything written years ago that people are still interested in publishing must be "quality." Those books are usually free of things we might think of as inappropriate for children, so we tend to default to them as things we'd like children to read. A lot of YA books now are fraught with "danger" to some people -- there was that recent example of the Newberry book that was banned from many libraries because the author had the audacity to use the word "scrotum" -- so people sort of look for safe books to refer to, ones that don't have anything mildly objectionable in them.

Don't know if that's at all clear, but that's my take on it.


message 9: by Jessica (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:03PM) (new)

Jessica Relatedly, I think people assume that if it's assigned in junior high or high school, it must be YA. In fact, much of the beloved high school canon meant nothing to me until I read it again as an adult, and discovered I'd only taken in a fraction of what there was to get out of the work.


message 10: by jacky (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:03PM) (new)

jacky I agree with both Laura and Jessica's reasons for why this happens. I will also add that adults read these books as young adults in school so they think, "Well, its young adult because that's how old I was when I read it."

But, I won't say that classics aren't "dangerous." Huck Finn has racial tensions and lacks morals, some say. Ethan Frome has suicide. And, I even had a parent tell me that she didn't think the Scarlet Letter was appropriate for her freshmen because she didn't think the conversation on sex out of wedlock it started between her and her son was right at that time. (Those three are just ones I use in my classroom). I think many of the classics also have content that can be called objectionable, but since they are classics, we aren't as worried because someone has stamped them as "good" literature.


message 11: by Laura (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:04PM) (new)

Laura (laurahogan) | 16 comments I think you're absolutely right, of course, about classic being as dangerous as contemporary literature. I hadn't thought of what you were saying about Huck Finn and so forth, but you're right -- certainly many classics have been the subject of banning attempts for years.


message 12: by Jessica (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:04PM) (new)

Jessica Incidentally, I don't think it's bad that I read books I couldn't entirely grasp when I was a teenager. To the contrary, being introduced to them, and some of their themes and the broader lessons in critical reading and thinking were crucial parts of my education, and prepared me to encounter them as an adult.


message 13: by Alexis (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:06PM) (new)

Alexis (AlexisMargaret) When I encounter parents who are worried about "content" in contemporary YA novels, it's not racism and adultery, it's the glorified sex, drugs & materialism of books like the Gossip Girl series or the infamous Rainbow Party.

I agree, though, that classics are often assumed to be young adult--but I think it's often by people who just are not familiar with the evolution of young adult literature over the last, let's say, 30 years. The fact of the matter is that writers and publishers are just producing more (more fluff and more quality stuff). In my experience it's often adults whose sole experience of young adult literature growing up was Nancy Drew et. al. who assume that what's out there is just entertainment, and that for "real" substance one must go to the classics.


message 14: by Laura (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:07PM) (new)

Laura (laurahogan) | 16 comments This probably just shows how ancient I am, but I picked up The Gossip Girl series to read in the bookstore, and I was horrified. Yeah, I know some people say it's supposed to be satire, but even assuming that's so (which I don't think it is), I doubt most of the target audience would understand that.


message 15: by jacky (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:07PM) (new)

jacky Alexis, I like your reasoning that most people who categorize YA and classics together probably aren't familiar with newer YA choices. While I did have that one parent complain about Scarlet Letter, the only other book I've ever had content complaints on was Perks of Being a Wallflower, and those were because of the sex and drugs. At the same time though, I find it kinda of contradictory to take those elements out of YA choices because those are real issues kids are dealing with and they are big parts of other types of media, both for teens and adults. I feel conflicted over how it very much is a parent's right to have a voice in what their child reads and with letting kids read texts that are interesting and real to them.

I haven't read any of the Gossip Girl books, but with a horrid review like that now I am dying to see what is so bad about them. :)


message 16: by Suzanne (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:08PM) (new)

Suzanne | 3 comments I am not ancient (30) and I, too, am horrified by some of the YA lit that is being published. I think sex, etc. can have a place in YA literature (for example, Judy Blume's Forever), but many of the YA books are gratuitous for the sake of being gratuitous, and they perpetuate the idea that YAs should behave like adults--and not even responsible adults.

I read Sweet Valley High books when I was that age, and the raciest it ever got was making out. I know times have changed, but I can't imagine what YA lit is going to evolve into.


message 17: by Misty (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:09PM) (new)

Misty You are so right, Jacky. I had a banned book unit last year that my students and I loved! My LMC staff helped me choose high interest books, as well as some "YA classics." I had an alternative assignment in case parents weren't comfortable with the banned and challenged books - Last Book in the Universe (sorry, but I can't remember the author).

Oh, and as an aside, I didn't realize that my copy of Fahrenheit 451 was an edited version. How is that for irony!


message 18: by Laura (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:09PM) (new)

Laura (laurahogan) | 16 comments (Just as an aside: Bradbury has recently (like in the last couple months) said that Fahrenheit 451 is not a story about government censorship. He said that it's actually a story about how television destroys interest in reading literature.)


message 19: by An (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:11PM) (new)

An | 7 comments when i first read ferenheit 451 i was in eighth grade, and i guess it's because i was young and didn't really pay attention to things like government censorship, but i definately picked up on the whole concept of t.v. stopping people from reading...

when i read it again a couple of years ago ((at 22)) i picked up on the censorship aspect, but i still carried the television issue.

i guess i'm glad i read it at a younger age the first time, because it was a lot of fun to read it a second time and pick up on all the things i just didn't get the first time around.


message 20: by An (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:11PM) (new)

An | 7 comments when i first read ferenheit 451 i was in eighth grade, and i guess it's because i was young and didn't really pay attention to things like government censorship, but i definately picked up on the whole concept of t.v. stopping people from reading...

when i read it again a couple of years ago ((at 22)) i picked up on the censorship aspect, but i still carried the television issue.

i guess i'm glad i read it at a younger age the first time, because it was a lot of fun to read it a second time and pick up on all the things i just didn't get the first time around.


message 21: by Jessica (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:45PM) (new)

Jessica (jessicaesq) The other day I heard an interesting definition of YA literature versus adult literature. I'm not entirely sure I agree with it, but it was that YA literature has child or teen protagonists, where adult literature has adult protagonists.

The above definition would answer why books like To Kill a Mocking Bird are classified as YA.


message 22: by Alexandra (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:46PM) (new)

Alexandra I do think this is how these books typically are catagorized by booksellers, libraries, and how they typically are promoted by publishers. But I don't agree it's "the" definition, and it seems to me is often wrong.

Another issue I find is that there are "Young Adult" novels quite suitable for tweens who are good readers - where "Young Adult" seems more tied to reading difficulty than subject matter. Then there are definately "Young Adult" novels I wouldn't consider suitable for tweens, even if their reading level is good enough. So I'd also add reading level as something (often wrongfully) considered when classifying kids, young adult, adult.

I think there are many novels classified as "Young Adult" that publishers/booksellers just don't know what to do with - just as what often happens with Sci-Fi/Fantasy. I often find adult Fantasy shelved in the kids section - as though the workers in the bookstore were unaware of what the book was, and just guessed. (Am I the only one tempted to sometimes reshelve books I find miscatorgorized in chain bookstores? :D)

It's too bad, because I think many good books are missed because they're shelved as kids books, when really they either are not, or are interesting enough that adults can enjoy them too.


message 23: by Laura (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:46PM) (new)

Laura (laurahogan) | 16 comments Hey, maybe we can get that piece of garbage The Lovely Bones shunted into the YA category. Yay!


message 24: by Amy (new)

Amy (Ldtchr) | 10 comments Janis - I agree about missing good books because they're shelved with the YA fantasy. I love to read Ann McCaffrey and Mercedes Lackey for example and am frustrated at my local library(!) because some of their books are shelved in the YA section and some in the adult. I tend to be browsing the YA section for some lighter reading or for my class and notice them thinking I might have missed some of their works. It seems to be a more recent issue though, because I'm noticing that I have read many of them and they must've been shelved with adult sci-fi/fantasy then.

I wonder if any of this is trying to entice young adults into reading more - offer better variety with some of the older variety as well. Not a bad idea I suppose, but I do have to say that it really irks me when this happens at the video store and my kids assume that because it's in the cartoons it's okay for them to watch.... but that's another message board.....


message 25: by Alexandra (new)

Alexandra Ldtcher, I think the problem is mainly ignorance about sci-fi and fantasy titles. For those unfamiliar with the genre it can be hard to tell just looking at a book where it belongs, and they just often guess wrongly.


message 26: by Jenna (new)

Jenna | 8 comments Ya DOES equal classics!


message 27: by Meaghan (new)

Meaghan (meggilyweggily) | 11 comments My local library has a couple of "classic" books in the YA section, most of them either pretty short (A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich) or classics about people of YA age (Sister Carrie, The Count of Monte Cristo).


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