13 September 2009

Young Adult Literature and My Opinion of Its Place in the World

I am, always have been and always will be an "English person."

I love words; the complexities of the English language allow a writer to perfectly define an emotion and give readers that empathy, that connection with a character or characters, inspiring passion. As I grow as a reader, writer and person, I begin to understand how much of that passion is in each word a writer chooses. The only way I think I'll ever be able to comprehend the love an author has for his or her work, his or her child, his or her creation is by creating something myself, feeling the nerves as I wait for an acceptance or rejection letter.

I had to preface this entry with that sentiment because I want you to understand that, at the least, I appreciate how difficult writing is, regardless of audience or subject matter or style or genre or plot line or any of the other hundreds of aspects of writing.

All of that having been said, I must say this--I am really not a fan of young adult literature.

First of all, I was not a fan of young adult literature as a young adult; most of the award-winning young adult books we've discussed in my "Adolescent in American Literature" class were books I read and enjoyed at a much younger age. The content was, for a 10, 11, 12 year old, very provocative, and I thought it was cool that my mother would not have approved of my reading them.

That being said, I am not the god of books. I know that I am a very picky reader--for me to like a book, it has to have many different elements, some of which aren't visible until halfway through the book or even until the end. Also, I am a very critical reader. I read quite quickly, but I like to stop and take notes in the margins, underline the sentences that speak to me or that use a word in a beautiful context, so it takes a long time for me to read. For this reason, I can be pretty bitter about reading a book that I don't like. When I realize halfway through or ten pages into it or as I read the last sentence that I did not enjoy the time I just spent on this book, I get frustrated. It's a waste of my time to read something that isn't enjoyable or that isn't going to help me learn anything new.

My primary concern is that I'm going to go through this class, through all of these books, through all of this time and not find what I'm looking for. I'm looking for something meaningful, challenging and appropriate to my classroom. I understand that this isn't an education class, as we've discussed many times before, but if I can't get something out of this class, why am I taking it?

I'm trying to read these books from perspectives other than my own. It's hard. If nothing else, I hope this class will teach me how to deal with things I don't like.

The field of YA lit is still somewhat of a mystery to me--we are constantly changing the definition as we discuss this issue in class. Is "young adult" synonymous with "teenager"? If not, how far up or down the age spectrum do we go?