Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Stay Young, YA.

(via weheartit.)

The recent posts (mine included) on YA book covers have brought up quite a few good points and possible issues, but the one I find most interesting is a thought that keeps being repeated. The idea here is that YA covers might not be appealing to adult readers, that they might be downright embarrassing or appalling in some cases. I've seen this in quite a few comments and even thought it myself, but the question is...

Why do we care if YA covers appeal to adults? 
I mean, YA books are for teens, right?

YES. Yes, yes, yes, a million times yes. There are a lot of non-teens who read YA and I think this is great. Though I definitely don't feel like a grown up yet, I'm not a teenager anymore and readily admit that I am not the target audience for YA novels. And, in my mind, I shouldn't be.

YA books should be about teens. The stories, the characters, and the covers. Right now this is a genre about and for teens; if the concern becomes "will this appeal to adult readers?" then the genre becomes one that might still be about teens, but is for adults. I don't know about anyone else, but I don't want that. I don't want the decisions of YA -- both how it's written, what's published, and how it looks -- to be made with adult readers in mind.

Being a teenager is hard. I don't want to undermine the trials of adulthood or childhood by saying this, but it's absolutely true. It's hard navigating junior high and high school. It's terrible to not know who your friends are, to be in love with a boy who's in love with someone else. It sucks to not feel okay in your own skin, to have that horrible push and pull of wanting to be both older and younger at the same time. It's hard to fight nonstop with your mother or do things you don't want to just because your friends are. It's difficult to figure out who you are and who you want to be.

These problems, I promise you, do not end when you turn twenty; they continue into adulthood and you might deal with them your entire life. But they start in adolescence and, I might argue, they're stronger in adolescence than at any other time. We have a tendency to romanticize things... like our past. I'm one of those weirdos who actually really really enjoyed being a teenager, no lie. But it's too easy to forget the heart-wrenchingly difficult parts.

It's hard to remember that there was a period of time when I didn't like talking, not even casually, to my mother because in one second we could go from perfectly civil to perfectly horrible. Now my mom is my friend, and it's too easy to forget that this wasn't always the case.

It's also hard to remember that when I was younger I considered my younger sister as, frankly, a bit of a pest and not the lovely-beautiful-brilliant best friend that she is to me now.

It's easy to let myself forget how much it hurt to move away from all my friends, my whole world, and come to a place where I was incredibly different and weird and nobody liked me. The pain of that time has, to a certain degree, faded and it's difficult to remember exactly how much it sucked to think that everybody thought I was a freak.

I don't like to remember myself as awkward or mean or pathetic or any of those things I was at one point during my teenage years. And even though I'm -- trust me on this -- still fully capable of all of that, it's not as ever-present as it used to be. There's a distance that dulls the memories and the emotions that go along with them and sometimes it's wonderful and sometimes it sucks and it's a different degree of distance and dulling for everybody, but it's there.

I don't want YA to become dulled or distanced. I don't want us to skip over the horrible fights, the difficult relationships with mothers, the awkwardness and pain and sometimes-pathetic behavior or feelings that happen. I don't want YA to be the grown-ups' version of what fifteen (or fourteen, sixteen, etc.) is like. I WANT YA TO BE PRESENT. I want it to be about the highs and the lows; the earth-shattering, my-world-is-ending heartbreak and the euphoric, we-are-infinite happiness. Because these things matter. As an adult, the heartbreaks and happiness from those years is still there. Sometimes, the world as you know it does end. And sometimes there are moments where anything is possible: those things are real, and I would hate so much for YA to forget this in favor of appealing to adult readers and adult sensibilities.

What's your opinion on YA appealing to adults v. teens? What is the genre to you?

1 comment:

  1. You make an excellent point! I hadn't thought about this before but it's so true. And really, why should we care what the people on the bus/train/wherever think of the books we're reading?! I'm sure they all have their own guilty pleasures and shouldn't judge!