I am going to be completely contrary today. I will no doubt piss off a lot of people – if you find you’re one of them, I apologise, but it needs to be said.
The first manuscript I wrote was YA fiction. The next three were a midgrade fantasy trilogy - which I have yet to complete because I was immediately distracted by yet another idea for YA fiction.
I love YA fiction. I love it because when I was a young adult there was none of it about and I always wished there was. I love it because the voices are so strong and so true. I love it because it deals with real issues, in multiple forms and genres, and because it is vivid and powerful, and more often than not, it is amongst some of the most well written fiction around. (More and more adults are reading YA fiction because of its quality.)
I’m currently working on two YA manuscripts. I read loads of YA fiction. I lead a YA critique group. My whole life, for the last several years, has been about YA fiction.
But here’s the thing. For the past little while I’ve noticed I’m reading less and less YA fiction. Instead I find I’m grubbing around on my shelves for midgrade fantasy. And it suddenly struck me last night that I am rapidly coming to loathe YA fiction.
When I sat down and thought about this startling development, I realized it is because so much of the YA fiction I read these days is gritty, it's edgy, it’s dark – and even if a story ends hopefully and even if it is beautifully written (and most are) there is just so much STUFF going on in the novels that they are enough to make me want to claw my eyes out!
It’s true; I am sick to death of YA fiction I’ve been reading. I’m sick and tired of the angst. I don’t want dark, traumatic and sombre stuff. I loathe and detest the dystopia. The world is a shitty enough place as it is, there’s enough angst and trauma out there. I don’t want to drag it into my leisure time. I want to read stories that are hopeful, happy, and maybe, God forbid, even just a little bit funny.
That’s not deny that young adults don’t go through a lot of stuff, it’s not to deny that the world is not, on far too many occasions, a desperate place. But where does it leave us, I wonder, if we only focus on the trauma, the angst, the trouble, the deeply complex and often destructive emotions and all the things that can go so badly wrong. As much as we need to reflect the darker side of life, it is equally, if not more imperative to focus on the happy things, the fun things, all the exhiliarating, wonderful things that being a young adult is also about. We need to find a balance. We need to find the balance in how individual books are written (grit needs to be balanced with lighter moments), and we need to find balance in what is published.
And it is not to say that lighter books are not out there, they are, or, they certainly were until the edgy, dystopian, dark fiction shoved them into the shadows.
So there, I’ve said it. Enough with the dark and the gritty and the troubled, I’m off to find me some love, some light, some laughter.
Any recommendations for recently published, light, hopeful, happy YA fiction will be greatly appreciated.