Outgrowing YA novels (and why everyone should)

Young adult novels are not written with genuinely good writing. I cast a large net over that generalization, so I will say now that of course there are exceptions.

When I was a avid YA reader I loved Sarah Dessen. And although I still would say she’s a good writer in general, I’ve out grown her books mentally–and think that should be an issue people recognize. Is it naive to think that truly good writing would be unable to outgrow?

YA is like modern romance novels. What I mean by that is that YA, like romance has a constant recurring theme. With romance it’s eros, with YA it’s the coming of age. How is this comparable? Well, romance is all about the emotion and so is YA. YA is designed to suck the young reader into a world by emotions, not by language. That’s an important difference.

Reading is used as an escape, but I think that’s what it’s become and not what it should be. Reading is about understanding humanity in it’s barest form. Middlemarch by George Eliot is a great example of exploring humanity and using characters to show the imperfect reality–how even with good intention imperfection comes. Yet, she doesn’t paint for the reader a sob story for the out-of-luck characters, or outpour fluff for the love story. She presents the world, the characters and through language transports you. But not for escape, rather to understand the world a little more.

Reading YA isn’t awful, but I think it dulls your senses to better writing because it’s easier to want that emotional pull in the novel. I know this because I had the hardest time reading Middlemarch, but through patience (and a lot of rereading) was able to see the technique in the story.

YA isn’t hard to write. Genuine, good language is. It’s rude to say because I know YA authors do put time, effort, and love into their writing–(the exceptions.)

When you weigh the scale of what’s more important to fill your mind with- a over emotionalized love story or a story about what reality is…one should be outgrown and the other never can be.

(If you disagree I’d love to know your reasons why.)

13 thoughts on “Outgrowing YA novels (and why everyone should)

  1. Great post! I love reading controversial opinions like this one. I personally love YA books, but I’ve been trying to start reading other books as well ever since I realized the better technique while reading a book for school. I think it’s great to have a mix 🙂

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  2. You bring up some really good points, and I totally agree with most of them – if it wasn’t for that one line at the start: that there are exceptions. I feel like this article is based on books like Twilight and House of Night, and yeah, everything you say is totally true for those kinds of books. But in my experience, those are the exceptions. They are popular because they are easy to read, and teenagers that don’t read need that ease. It’s better to read easy stories than to not read at all.

    But the easy to read books are not the majority, nor are they the best sold books. John Green writes young adult books, and that man writes well. Harry Potter is a YA series, that’s arguably one of the best books written in the last decades. Darren Shan might be less popular – probably because he writes horror stories – but I’ve learned as much out of his books as I’ve learned from Robin Hobb’s books.

    I also don’t think you outgrow books because they are badly written. I mean, that’s one option, of course, but it’s not the only option. Most books deal with a particular theme, and you can outgrow that theme as well. Not because it’s bad, but because it’s no longer applicable to your life.

    Before I go, I really wanted to say that there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a silly romance novel every once in a while. Sometimes, you really do need a break in reality, a moment where you don’t have to deal with your own problems. You have to grow beyond reading only that, yes, but you don’t need to outgrow it completely in my opinion.

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    • It isn’t necessarily the content, but the style YA is written. I have YA books I still love because they are well written, but in my mind they aren’t YA, or geared to only teenagers. They might have a YA tag, but the content is more than just two teens falling in love.
      As for reading a romance every once in a while to take a break, I agree. You can’t read War and Peace and then decide to read Crime and Punishment (well you can but your brain might hurt) I just think we have to be careful what we pick up and why. Using escapism while reading can hinder you. You just got to be careful that you’re not reading emotionally pulled books all the time.
      The biggest reason I have this opinion because while I was in college I realised I was having a really hard time focusing on the reading inhad to do because it wasn’t an emotional rollercoaster. I was mad at myself, and so I taught myself to love reading for what it is – exploring humanity through language.

      Thanks for commenting, I’ve enjoyed your opinions! I was going to mention this is the other comment but I forgot – I recommend Several Short Sentences about Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg. It’s hands down the best book I’ve read on writing.

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  3. YA writers don’t write for a wide audience. The truth is that they otherwise wouldn’t find their voice. The genre allows for poor writing to get some readership, as you say. But if every novel had to reach the level of George Eliot, then no one would write anything. You have to be prepared as a reader that 9/10 of the stuff you read isn’t going to win any awards. But if YA writers can reach readers that are just developing, then they can mold their audience… something you can’t really do in the crusty, 30-something type. Nonetheless, I agree with most of what you’re saying…

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    • Yeah I know what you mean. I just personally get annoyed when the good- well written books are less appreciated. Overall I don’t constantly read the best literature because my brain would be exhausted. It’s having a nice balance while understanding one is better than the other.

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      • I occasionally do read the good stuff. Right now, I’m in the middle of Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. But the readership of this book honestly in the 19th century, and its difficult to get some context. Actually, that’s what keeps me away from Middlemarch. It’s as if Eliot is saying “what have to say is basically to my readership.” However, the quality of the writing makes it worth a read. If you could give me one reason to read Middlemarch, then I might put my copy of any old YA novel. I read Flaubert, but I read it for totally different reasons that Marcus Zusak’s ‘The Book Thief.’ Good for you for encouraging your readership to read higher than their level…

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      • Middlemarch took me months to get through… because as much as I loved it, it was tiresome. I can agree that it’s written to it’s readership, but like all great books it reaches beyond that. Like, War and Peace and Pride and Prejudice. There are YA that reach beyond, like for me I think The Giver is one of the best books that can be read young and reread older and still be a great book.

        I don’t think I could give you one reason to read Middlemarch, because I actually read it for a college class…and was the only one to keep reading it and finish it.

        I was able to get through it, I think, because I read Jane Austen.

        I feel like o sound like I really hated it, but what I mean is, I pushed through reading it because I personally wanted to learn how to read better, slower, and become for intuned with the novel. It was through that process that i found what I now love so much about it.

        The characters. The pure humanity of each characters breaks through and I saw it as the first novel that was completely honest about human nature. It’s set up this way- we are introduced to a character, their virtues and their vices and then we see a scene unfold where the virtue and vices are implemented.

        I say this is closer to the human experience because in real life there is no “bad guy” but a human with virtue and vice, even if that vice is far larger than any virtue. Because of this we are much more forgiving. Most novels aren’t set up to where we can see a character fully for who they are, we only see that they are good or bad and we know subconsciously who to like. With middlemarch you make you’re own decisions, and even the bad characters are hard to hate completely because we see some good in them.

        Here’s an example- Fred cannot get his life together, can’t figure out what to do with his career. He ends up waiting for a rich relative to die because he thinks he’ll just inherit. During this he gets into debt and makes a bunch of bad choices, and even wants a girl to promise him hope in marriage. I look at that from the outside and think, wow what a lazy, selfish character. Well, Fred is, but because we are also shown his virtue I forgive him easily. Like a brother who you have to love even when they make the wrong choice.

        Does that make any sense? At this point I feel like my rambling might just be that.

        One last thing- Virginia Woolf said it was the first English novel for adults, and my opinion on that is that it has to do with the characters.

        They make ‘grown up/moral’ choices and still find themselves in an imperfect life…much like real life.

        I could go on, but I doubt I’ve convinced you.

        But id just say don’t let supposed ‘readership’ keep you from reading anything, because writing, stories, at there core will teach you something regardless of when or who they were writing for because even though things have changed from the outside, I find the way we think isn’t all that different.

        (Like with ancient satire- the moral of the story is usually, ‘don’t take yourself so seriously’ and we often need to still be reminded out it)

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  4. Very nice post, but I have to say that as a writer, I find it helps to read all kinds of books, from what’s considered to be the best literature in the world to things like The Hunger Games (no disrespect to THG as I love this trilogy). Although I’m not a huge fan of YA books, I wouldn’t avoid them like a cold. I’ve actually learnt a lot from ‘crappy books’ and sometimes they aren’t even crappy, they’re just terribly written with an amazing story and for me the story is key anyway. Of course as you say, there are some books that have to be admired and cherished above others, and I definitely think it’s important to not just read YA books. Variety is the spice of reading.

    filmfrolicxxx

    Liked by 1 person

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