Young Adult Books Have Come Out of the Closet
Young Adult novels have eluded me for the longest time. I had no knowledge of them when I was growing up. I think I went from reading Where the Wild Things Are and Goodnight Moon straight to Stephen King and Daphne du Maurier. I also vividly remember being captivated when I read A Tale of Two Cities and The Scarlet Letter. But I don’t’ think Dickens or Hawthorne had a young Puerto Rican teenage girl from the South East Bronx in mind when they wrote their books.
That is to say there weren’t a whole lot of authors speaking to me and my experiences. I believe people, all people, need to see themselves reflected back in society. Whether it is through television, magazine ads, bill boards, our politicians, our teachers or the books we read. It’s very special, and yes even essential, that we get validation by being recognized in the culture we live in. Young Adult books are finally doing that.
With author Trish Milburn’s (aka Tricia Mills) monthly RNTV column of YA news (every third Thursday of the month), I’m beginning to get a sense of the scope of the literature that is available to young people. This was reinforced at last weekends Book Expo America (BEA). Everywhere I turned publishers were highlighting their YA authors and books.
More and more young people are being exposed to and experiencing a world that has, for lack of a better phrase, come out of the closet and Judy Blume books are no longer enough for them. Today young people are living with 24 hour news and immediate and unfettered in your face information. Communication is instant. They live in single parent homes, two dad homes, two mom homes, foster homes and sometimes in no home at all.
They deal with poverty, sex, pregnancy, abortion, drugs, alcohol, gangs, illness and death; and they’re not afraid to talk about it. The books for today’s young adults not only address these issues and speak to their emotions but they also treat them like their lives, thoughts, issues and problems matter. The books reflect their lives – and that’s powerful!
There is also an abundance of YA fantasy books available. This tells me that young adults, like old adults, every once and a while, need to escape. To be transported to a world not of their making. To a world that has no resemblance to the one their living in. (Isn’t that true for all of us?) The exciting thing is that young people are reading and authors are writing for this audience.
What I find truly amazing about today’s YA books (the one’s I’ve been reading) is that they have great cross over appeal in regards to age. I’m way past my young adult years and yet I’m captivated by many of these books. (It goes to show you, write a book well, tell a good story and you’ll always find an audience.) The power of a book, no matter who you are, no matter the gender or age, is waiting to be unleashed. Just turn to the first page and begin.