There’s So Much More than Meets the Eye

by Madeleine Rex

DISCLAIMER: This post is not intended to dampen the morale around here. I simply want to address a few issues and clarify things for those who might be confused. I hope that the ultimate message here is a positive one, and I certainly mean the closing paragraphs to be uplifting.

There was a lot of buzz concerning the Slate article written by Katie Crouch and Grady Hendrix, the authors of The Magnolia League. It’s an article concerning the “realities” (note the quotation marks) of YA and writing YA. The article outraged many YA writers, and I’ll admit that I wasn’t entirely impervious myself.

Once everybody had made their way through it (eyes rolling intermittently), my twitter feed was clogged with upset tweets. Regrettably, I added to the negativity, but a few fellow writers calmed those of us who had lost our cool. I decided to take a some time to let the article’s contents settle in my brain before confronting this blog post.

The article is supposedly the inside-scoop on YA and oftentimes discusses the contrast between YA and literary fiction. Typically, I’d think: Yay! People will hear the truth about the YA and why it appeals to so many. Fantastic, right? Unfortunately, though the writers of the article talk about the benefits and draw of YA, they do so rather condescendingly, depicting YA as a sort of “cop-out” genre for writers who want to work and make money fast (authors who essentially want instant gratification) and readers who want beach reads with little depth or truth-telling.

While I’m sure this is the case for some YA writers and readers, it’s undoubtedly the truth for readers and writers of any genre. In other words: It’s not the genre, it’s the people in question. However, can it really be said that YA is as frilly and superficial as they seem to think it is? Is there no truth-telling or emotional depth? Of course there is! There’s loads of it! Particularly if you look in the right places. Consider John Green’s books, or Melina Marchetta’s. There are brutally honest portrayals of characters’ rough teenage years out there that have captivated audiences of every age. And despite the popularity of dystopian and fantastical books in YA, there are many talented authors that manage to infuse those books with realistic characters who have the same complicated emotions and problems teenagers like myself are forced to confront in our everyday lives. As writers of young adult, most of us strive to be as truthful as possible in an effort to connect with the real teenagers who are our target audience. Any additional frill and frufru is simply included to make the story and plot as much of a fun and adventurous jaunt as possible.

Also, it cannot be said that YA authors don’t spend hours critiquing their own work to make it as impeccable as possible. The claim that YA authors only write 2 or 3 drafts is an absurd generalization. Stephenie Meyer might have written Twilight in one fell swoop, but I think we’ve all come to realize that Twilight is not the only, nor the best, example of young adult fiction. YA is a vast and expanding genre that encompasses myriad topics. There are subgenres galore, and every reader has his or her own preferences.

Of course, I’m taking a risk by writing this post at all – and I might be insane to post it – but I believe something needs to be said beyond 140 character spurts of frustration. I don’t want to make a fuss, but I want to clarify for those who might have read the article that are not young adult fiction writers. Never believe in stark generalizations, but even more to the point: Don’t sell YA short, and don’t for a minute believe it is substandard. Why is it that Young Adult is thought to be petty simply because it incorporates some plotlines that aren’t profoundly serious? YA, like every genre – from middle grade to literary fiction – is simply targeted toward a specific audience and therefore strives to incorporate aspects into the story that are regular problems in a teen’s life.

I love young adult, not because I don’t want to invest my time or take my plotlines seriously, but because I love the audience, the genre’s potential, and simply love writing it. That is why YA is awesome. (And I’m sure it is way better than prom.)

P.S. If you haven’t read it already, head over to my “Dear Writers, Respect YA” post from awhile back.

One Commentto “There’s So Much More than Meets the Eye”

  1. Love this post. Very well said– generalizations never turn out well.

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