Why YA Lit is so Important

If you’ve taken a look around my blog, you might have noticed a few trends. I take my faith seriously. I take reading seriously. I take writing seriously. And I take YA lit seriously.

But why YA lit? Wouldn’t you think someone like me, an English major, someone who takes reading and literature and studying so seriously, would look down on YA lit?

Not so, folks. I think YA lit is pretty dang important. So important that It makes up more than half of books I read. I wrote a whole essay and even did a presentation on why I think it’s so important for one of my first university-level English courses. I took a whole class earlier this year just focused on YA lit. And now, I write YA lit and write about it. So, what’s the big deal? Why would a student of literature put so much stock in YA lit?

Getting Young Adults to Read

Skeptics will say what they will about YA lit, but that doesn’t change the fact that teens, and adults too, for that matter, are reading it. But how many of those same teens are skipping the reading of “literature” in their high school classes?

Or how many kids and teens have been put off of reading forever because of the way they were taught “literature” at school?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I think canonical literary texts are super important. Anyone who’s willing  can learn tons about life and ethics by reading Charles Dickens or Shakespeare. But not all teens are willing. So should they just not read at all?

Or should they read YA books? Contemporary stories written in language they can understand are still better than nothing, right?

Lessons to Learn

Besides being easier to read, YA lit is just as full of important themes and other literary elements as most “literary” texts. Of course there are the fluffy junkers that don’t have anything to teach, but then there are books like Hunger Games, The Fault in Our Starsand The Outsiders. If you think these books don’t have anything to teach, you better give them another read. Friends, there’s a reason these ones got so popular.

You know what else is great about those lessons? They’re taught in a way teens can relate to. As wonderful as Charles Dickens is, it’s a little difficult for a fifteen-year-old today to relate to a Victorian-era fifteen-year-old. And while I sincerely hope that all fifteen-year-olds will get to the point where they can read and appreciate Dickens, there’s nothing wrong with them learning similar lessons from characters they can relate to better.

Contemporary Issues

Of course, there are many canonical texts that are written in such a way that makes them just as relevant today as in the day they were written. In fact, any classic that has stood the test of time must have something for us to learn in today’s environment. There are, however, many current issues that haven’t been a problem before. Or some that were too taboo to be written about 100+ years ago.

YA lit has the potential to take these issues and examine them thoroughly. It can take a character that any of today’s teens can relate to and explore the edges and crevices of mental health, gender identity, the effects of mass media, the reach of technology, and so many other issues that just haven’t been touched before. Aren’t these topics just as important today as those issues that have reached down through history?

You see, I don’t just love YA lit because it’s fun. Although, it’s totally fun and that’s just another reason to love it. I love it because it’s so important. It’s one of the best ways to teach today’s youth about the world they’re growing up in, and it can also teach them to love reading before they have a chance to hate it.

What are your thoughts on YA? Love it as much as I do? Hate it with a burning passion? Let me know in the comments!

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