Saturday, June 28, 2014

Me & YA

There's been a lot of talk lately in the book blogging community about YA and the adults that read it thanks to this article on Slate. A lot of book blogs I read tend to focus around YA books, and a majority of the people who write those blogs are older than the intended audience for these reads. It had me thinking a lot about my own relationship with YA and how it has changed over the years and my thoughts and feelings on it now. So let's talk...

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I did not read YA hardly ever as a teenager. Occasionally I would pick up a Meg Cabot or Sarah Dessen book and I devoured the Gossip Girl series, but for the most part I thought that YA was really corny and I had a hard time relating to it. Most of the books I checked out from the library as a teenager came from the fiction section and was primarily geared towards adults. I was more drawn to 'adult' books because, like most teenage girls, I thought I was 'mature,' dammit. High school was also the time when the Twilight series started gaining popularity, and I did not want to be lumped in with the Team Edward and Team Jacob hoard of teenage girls. I also liked the stories in fiction a lot more, they were more intense and gripping for me, and I liked that more than boy problems.

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About two years into college, I started reading a few YA books. Mostly of the John Green variety that came as recommendations from my sister. One day, in a reading slump, I picked up I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert and loved it. It was exactly a book I would have loved as a teenager. It was gritty and filled with punk rock. After reading what YA had the potential of being (aka: not just boyfriend dramas), I signed up for her YA writing class at my college. In her class, her reading list exposed me to gems such as The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. These books turned me into a believer. They were written as if for adults, and had the types of hard hitting subjects that I loved in literary fiction as a high schooler. Reading these books then got me into reading Goodreads reviews of them, and finding booktube videos about them, blogs about them, and eventually inspired me to start my own blog (this one, duh!)
Am I embarrassed about reading YA as an adult? Hell naw! There are so many things to love about YA. They are easier and quicker to read than a lot of other fiction. Because publishing companies are in the push to get teenagers to want to read, a lot of YA books are publicized heavily and come with a lot of fun promotional items. When Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson came out, people were getting heart shaped sunglasses with their pre-orders. At BEA, people were getting hoodies along with the release of City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare. Etcetera. There is a lot of fun opportunities for promoting and enticing teens to read, and there's a ton of build up for new releases. Adult fiction usually comes with less fanfare, and honestly I barely know what the new releases are unless it's by an author I've established a love for (Wally Lamb, JK Rowling, Rainbow Rowell, etc). I also love the discussion that surrounds YA novels. People create fan art for their favorite characters, playlists for their favorite books, and so on. I know that if I'm flailing over a new John Green book or something, there are a thousand other people doing the same thing and we connect over that. The fan art and fun extras is also not something that happens regularly in literary fiction unless it becomes a TV show or movie. 
Over-saturation? Is that a thing? This almost contradicts what I love about YA, too. I wish that literary fiction came with the same fanfare as YA, and that it got as much credit and exposure. I watched a thing on TV about TFIOS, and it showed John Green walking outside of a building, and there was a HUGE crowd of screaming girls begging for autographs and selfies. YA authors have more exposure and celebrity, and literary fiction authors are still thought of as heavy drinking hermits without faces and don't get that same kind of attention even though they are just as worthy. It is also very hard for me to find blogs and YouTube channels that review literary fiction because of the intense popularity of the genre. Which is great, but at the same time I start to see the same handful of books and new releases over and over again. Also, I've noticed that, mostly in BookTube videos, when a reviewer branches out from YA, they are 'shocked' and 'uncomfortable' by average sex scenes in books, even though they are adults? Sometimes married ones? 
When I first started The Lit Girl, my goal was to make literary fiction and classics seem more fun to my age group. The handful of blogs reviewing literary fiction that I found were very drab and unappealing in design, or the reviews were very educated and not the kind of quick or engaging read that is often found on blogs that review YA. If anyone has been here for the last year and a half, you'll remember I launched this blog in the middle of a two month long read of Cancer Ward by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. I also reviewed or talked about the memoirs and fiction I was reading for fun, and the classics I was reading for school. As I became more interested in YA, I started watching more videos and reading more blogs and eventually I became more drawn to the books that everyone else was talking about and recommending. After all, a lot of reviewers are awesome and I'm fans of so many of them, and I trust their recommendations so I became like a moth to the flame! YA is quicker for me to read, which means my review turn around becomes much faster if I read YA instead of literary fiction all the time. Also, the majority of the galleys I'm approved for are in the YA genre. 
Lately I've found myself wanting to get back to my original goals with The Lit Girl, and try to create more excitement around literary fiction in the book blogging world. I want to make these books seem more enticing and less daunting or intimidating. BUT I still want to read YA and get sucked into their stories and fandoms. I've been reading more literary fiction lately, but there are tons of new YA releases that I am excited about, and still plan on reading and maybe reviewing. Expect to see more books for adults though, and my attempts to hype them up a lot more, and maybe some older or lesser discussed YA books that seem to be forgotten about these days.

What is your relationship with YA like? Would you be interested in reading more literary fiction reviews?

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