So, when I was a kid our choices of books to read were fairly limited. We had anything by Enid Blyton or the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. That was it……
Although I have read all the Magic Faraway Tree books (multiple times!) the choice wasn’t massive. There was certainly no genre available for the angst ridden teen reader.
Most of the authors that I have spoken to have agreed that the first series of books that kicked off the YA explosion was Harry Potter. Yes, that one that you’ve all read so many times that you probably need a new copy (the newly released cover are pretty cool!) The thing about YA fiction is that it can deal with some weighty subjects without having to actually talk about them. I even learnt some super interesting things about the way teens think by reading them. From teen love, to friendship issues to sexuality, bullying, how to deal with your parents; and that’s just your average Jacqueline Wilson book! oh I forgot, she also deals with death and depression, the work house and unemployment and everything else in between.
Most teens today can relate to these topics because they either have first hand experience or they know someone else who does. Whereas twenty years ago we all talked about them, now we can see that these things are happening to other people all the time and that’s quite comforting. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green teaches us how to cope with the death of someone our own age, someone we love and hoped to grow old with. Divergent and The Hunger Games gives us strong female role models that we can aspire to become; choosing our own destiny. Most books deal with the complex relationships that we have with our parents when we are teenagers (I promise you it will get better!) A lot of them look at violence, different social groupings, how others perceive us…. it’s all there. Hate by Alan Gibbons looks at the real life murder of a girl because she was dressed as a Goth – by daring to be different she becomes the target for someone else’s hatred.
But, by far the biggest subject dealt with in YA fiction is dystopia. Even my mum can name at least one book that has been made into a book that looks at the future. Why is it that all books about the future portray it as a bad place? There’s a niche market for someone to write a book about a happy place! My favourite series by a long chalk is Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. The future teens all get to be beautified at the age of sixteen and then spend the rest of their days (until they get old and not useful) partying and having fun! Although this sounds like the perfect future, in fact these novels are about controlling the masses by giving them exactly what they think they want. Figure that one out!
What I am trying to say is that there is a ‘teen’ book out there dealing with every issue from self harming to runaway pets…… you just need to find the right one. You might just learn something!