Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Literary v. YA... WAIT, WHAT?

I rarely ever highlight books of genres other than YA and MG here; it's not the focus of the blog and while I feel somewhat qualified to talk about YA, having read so much of it, with other genres I feel less steady on my feet. That said, the topic of literary novels has been coming up again and again, often in articles comparing YA (negatively) to literary fiction. And then in the comments of those articles that compare literary fiction (again, negatively) to YA.


My dislike is based not only on the fact that (obviously) I love YA lit, but also because I also kind of love literary books. I mean, I'm allowed to like both, right? The problem with many of these articles I've read is that it sets up an us vs. them mentality, as if YA lit and literary fiction are on opposite ends of the spectrum, battling it out. As if YA is a threat to literary novels, is somehow diminishing them, as if there's no overlap between the people who enjoy YA and those who enjoy literary fiction.

But it's just not true. It's true I've read more YA than any other genre, but it's also true that some of my most cherished books fall under the category of "literary." I can't help it. I have a thing for pretty words and complex characters and beautiful beautiful breathtaking settings. Just like not all YA is vampires/dark/badly written, not all literary novels are dry/pretentious/boring. I don't like feeling as if the two facets of publishing are enemies because I don't like choosing sides, because both of these genres have greatness in them.

The History of Love? Brilliant. Beautiful.
Sea? Again, brilliant. Beautiful.

I have as hard a time believing that literary writers are all pretentious artistes as I do thinking that YA authors don't care about the quality of their stories and words. After reading certain articles this past week I almost feel like shouting can't we all just get along?? Because, really.

What are your favorite literary novels (if you read them)? What can you recommend for someone who loves The Lovely Bones, Downtown Owl, and The History of Love?


  1. You make some good points. I also wonder if there's an argument to be made for the fact that some YA is literary, and that YA as a whole is not a genre, per se, so much as a category of books (YA is generally defined as books meant for teens ages 12-18).

    There are YA books being written that are very literary. I'd make the argument that Kirsten Hubbard's Like Mandarin falls into this category. Even something like Imaginary Girls, which is borderline-supernatural, is more challenging and literary than many of its contemporaries in the YA genre.

    Am I way off? I can't tell anymore.

    In terms of recommendations, have you read Room by Emma Donoghue? You might like it.

  2. Clementine Bojangles
    Haha, you're such a mind reader... one of my future posts is on literary YA!!

    But I actually think YA as a whole IS a genre -- it's just one that's broad enough to include many subgenres.

    And Room has been on my list since it came out, but I haven't gotten around to actually READING it yet. Shame.