Hello, folks! My name is Lila and today I’m going to be discussing YA lit.
Today’s discussion is about talking to teens through literature. This discussion is partly inspired by Cait’s discussion of age and YA and partly inspired by the recent controversy concerning the adaptation of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code into a “teen novel.” Basically, a lot of people (readers, bloggers, and authors) in the YA community have been saying that teen novels don’t need to be watered down (i.e. teens aren’t dumb or naive). And before I get into this discussion, I want to say that I 100% agree. But the questions I’m asking here are, “How do adult books differ from YA in theme, content, and message?” and “How do we speak to teens through literature in an authentic way?”
Now, obviously, adult books differ from YA in that adult books generally contain more graphic sex and violence scenes than YA. I say generally because YA sometimes does include graphic sex and violence scenes and honestly I think that’s okay–as I mentioned before, teens aren’t dumb or naive, they know that sex and violence exist.
Then there’s the age issue. YA books generally have protagonists in the 14-18 age range. Generally. This is not a law, just a guideline. A YA book can have a younger or an older protagonist. There are many adult books which feature teen or child protagonists, despite the book being categorized as “adult” for the sake of content and message.
This brings me to my next point. What I really want to get at is the difference in tone, theme, and message that may exist between YA and adult books. Because, honestly, I think this is the biggest difference between YA and adult.
In my opinion, most YA books boil down to a main theme of finding yourself and discovering who you are in a very big, very chaotic world. Why do most YA books boil down to this theme? Because everyone’s teenage years are some of the biggest years of self discovery (in society’s opinion–I would argue that we are always discovering and rediscovering ourselves, which is why YA is so popular among all age demographics. But that’s a totally different topic).
Adults, on the other hand, are viewed by society as having already discovered themselves, meaning that their books boil down to different themes than the “self discovery” theme. It is not that teens are too stupid or naive to understand these varying themes. Rather, because teens are in a different stage of their lives, they may not find those themes as interesting or sympathetic.
This being said, I want to pose this question: “How do we speak to teens through literature in an authentic way?”Obviously, this is already being done, or YA books written by adults (or anyone, honestly) wouldn’t be so popular with actual teens. But I’m interested in how this is being done.