Following on my post about the abundance of dystopia in so much of YA fiction, I’ve been pondering exactly what it is about YA fiction that captures not only the imagination of its intended audience and those who write it, but also the imagination of the increasing number of adults reading YA fiction.
If I jump back a moment, I’m struck how, from my mid-forties, it suddenly became so important to find friends from my later teen years. Friends lost along the way and whom I hadn’t necessarily thought about in 20 or 30 years but who had suddenly started invading my subconscious.
While I was wondering about it out loud, Lovely Husband observed that our young adult years are such an important time. And he is right. At that age we are no longer children and we are not yet adults. It’s a time of life which gives us a unique freedom. It is vivid, vibrant, full passion and zeal. It’s the time of life when we are exploring so much on our own, but also in the company of our friends. We think about the “meaning of life”, we indulge in wild parties, we push boundaries, we discover our independence, we savour the intense flavours of love, are swamped by heartbreak, we find ourselves, we lose ourselves and we find ourselves again. We join protest marches, we try to save the world, and in doing so we save ourselves. The good and the bad, the highs and the lows are all caught up in an intense whirlwind of living and feeling – of Being - in the most utterly vivid, sometimes painful and, frequently, guileless self-absorbed way.
There is just so much that happens as a young adult and as we transition from childhood to adulthood. Despite the intensity of emotion and living, it is one of the most carefree times of our lives. We are not hampered by the responsibilities of adulthood, and we are no longer hamstrung by the well-intentioned restraints of our parents. It is also the first time we are given to a wide range of freedom of expression which is taken seriously not only by our peers but the adults around us. It’s a time when we create so many of our own stories and are part of so many of the stories of those around us. It is hugely fertile ground.
And as Young Adult authors dig deep into their own pasts, their own emotions and memories, and connect them to the present to create stories that touch the intended YA audience, it is no small wonder that other adults are increasingly turning to YA fiction. Those years represent some of the best, the most vibrant and intense years of our lives – why on earth would we not want to recapture them in some way? Particularly so if words on a page wring poignant reminders, stir deep wells of memory, evoke gleeful laughter (and possibly waves of embarrassment!), and are as beautifully written and richly evocative as so much YA fiction is.
I know I lamented YA fiction last month – but really, what I lament is the industry focus on dystopia and the lack of balance of what is available on the shelves. In my heart I still love YA and always will - simply because of the wide range of richness it evokes and embraces.