I often find myself in the bookstore with friends, nervously looking through the section labeled Fiction, but glancing longingly at the Young Adult (YA) section. That’s where I want to be because that’s where the books I want to read are. The problem is, there’s a stigma attached to literature labelled Young Adult. For some reason, people seem to think this means “Kid’s Books” which, therefore, means “Lower Quality”. This isn’t true.
Young Adult literature is of no lower quality than regular adult fiction. And it is certainly not below people who are no longer in their teens. Yes, I will admit there are some books categorized as “Young Adult” that are targeted at a younger audience, and sometimes written at a lower level so people in their early teens can understand them. But this is absolutely not the case with all YA books.
Every once in a while, a YA books comes along that gains popularity with adults too. Currently, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars is one such book. Adults who normally don’t venture into the YA world seem to always justify their reading (and enjoying) of this book by saying something like: “I know it’s a teenage book, but it’s very well written.” As if the other 99% of teenage books are not well written. As if they could not possibly make as much of a statement as adult fiction.
I am 20 years old and I happen to enjoy reading books about people around my age. Those books often are usually in the YA section. But does that mean that my favourite books are not as well written as any adult fiction? Nope. It does not. I happen to have a passion for reading. I don’t like things that are not well written. And I can definitively say that I have read just as much poorly written adult fiction books as I have YA. And I have read just as much incredibly well-written YA as I have adult.
One famous example of a YA book that surpasses much adult literature is Lois Lowry’s The Giver. The Giver is an amazing book that will leave you thinking and in awe for days. It’s a dystopian written long before dystopians started becoming so very popular again. The Giver is often read in schools, and has won a large number of literary awards. This novel is a must read for everyone-including adults. Literary critics (including those at the New York Times, Booklist and Kirkus Reviews) call it an amazingly powerful, thought-provoking novel. And they weren’t reviewing it as it pertains to kids. They meant this for everyone.
So I encourage everyone who avoids the YA shelf like the plauque for fear of being exposed to “kid’s books” with “kid’s writing” to stop by there once in a while. You might be surprised by some of the stunning novels you find there. Yes, you might not like everything, but you surely don’t like everything you find in the adult fiction section either.
Here are just a few of my favourite YA books that can rival the best adult fiction:
- The Giver by Lois Lowry
- Lord of the Flies by William Goulding
- Looking for Alaska by John Green
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Steven Chobsky
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (My grandma absolutely loves this one. And she’s a picky reader)
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
- Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
- Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
These are a small sample of YA books with better writing and deeper message than a vast majority of adult fiction books. Let me know what you think about YA vs Adult Fiction in the comments!