Tuesday, March 6, 2012

YA and the Need for Adult Themes

Patrick Wilken
What does YA really mean? It should stand for Young Adult, but I feel like there is this idea out there that YA means “12 and up” or early teens, I’ve even heard children as young as 9 or 10 are reading YA, but I would not consider kids in their or the early teen years to be young adults. I would consider 15 and up to be young adults. I feel like there is too large of a gap between YA and Adult, when they should be butted up right against one another and because of this I feel like we have one genre of books that are kept fairly clean, YA, and then another genre, Adult, which more or less has no holds barred. So where’s the middle ground? Where are the books actually for young adults, the ones that talk about coming of age issues in honesty and don’t gloss over them?

I loved the Hunger Games, and I felt like there were adult themes there that are relevant to a young adult person, obviously there must be other books out there that touch on these issues as well; however I felt like in THG series we were given an immense amount of graphic violence while most other young adult issues were glossed over. Katniss and her relationships with Peeta and Gale were very real, but I felt like the author didn’t spend enough time showing us them. We were given a few lovely moments and then told about the rest. This is a beautiful story to show the adult themes of violence, corruption, war and loss, but is lacking in the adult themes of love and sex.
I feel like from the age of 15 and up, relationships, love, lust, sex; these become huge themes in people’s lives. They are the things that young adults are thinking about and yet I find few books that tackle these issues in a useful way. Not in a graphic way, but in a way that brings the reader through their experience to really feel their emotions and learn something from what the character has been through. Young adults need to know how to tackle these themes in their lives; they need some insight into messy relationships and mistakes in love. Ignoring these issues does not help young adults, but romanticizing love is even worse.
Twilight, which I still love, holds on to the premise of abstinence in which the main characters Bella and Edward wait to be together until they are married. I find this unrealistic and while it certainly sends out a positive and ideal message about love, marriage and sex, it doesn’t give the reader anything useful about navigating the realities of love, marriage, and sex.
Often when I’m reading a YA book (mostly YA paranormal romance) I find that it is either lacking sex entirely or its main plot is about the main character and her love interest whom she's drawn to for no reason (and is still often lacking sex). Where are the books that have a plot which can stand on its own and still have believable relationships which look at the complications of love and sex to help teens as they deal with adult issues? Often times in YA I feel violence, sex, and language are seen as big “no no’s” but I feel these are the things we should be talking about when dealing with a YOUNG ADULT audience. Obviously some of these themes are not appropriate for children, but then why are children reading YA?
Does anyone have any good recommendations for a mature young adult read? Maybe I’m the one that’s missing where these books are, but I feel it is important that they not only exist but are good reads.

Other Blog Posts I liked on this topic:

Can There Be “Inappropriate” Content in YA?