YA Literature: To Be or Not to Be

Today, symptoms I took my final examination for my children’s literature class. I know, I’m really sad about it. I am definitely going to miss this class. Its crazy how I took this class on a whim and it has been one of my favorite clases that I’ve ever taken.

But anyway, one of the questions on the final was to discuss the two different views on using young adult literature in the high school curriculum. Which got me thinking of course.

I know, more posts about young adult literature. Its something that I feel passionately about. I read a ton of young adult literature and I honestly do think that the high school curriculum could be improved by integrating contemporary young adult fiction.

I mean, don’t get me wrong: there are books in high school that I enjoyed and definitely should be read: The Joy Luck Club, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, Brave New World, etc. There are a lot that I didn’t enjoy as well like Of Mice and Men (or anything John Steinbeck to be quite honest…can’t believe I share a birthday with that guy…), The Scarlet Letter…and Shakespeare. Oh god Shakespeare. No offense, Will, I understand what you did for the English language and writing and all that but no thanks.

Those books just didn’t make an impact on me at all. I didn’t learn anything and I didn’t gain anything.

Those who are against using young adult lit in schools fear that it is lowering the bar on literature standards. Young adult lit is often times used with remedial readers to help them understand themes and ideas and things like that. However, they are afraid of dumbing things down for the more sophisticated readers.

And I personally disagree with it. I feel as if these critics think we are going to be introducing books like Twilight and Hush, Hush or Gossip Girls and books of that kind of caliber. Now, I’m not hating on those books or anything; they are enjoyed by many people and they can be entertaining or whatnot but they are not of academic caliber. No way. I mean, I ADORE Cassandra Clare but I wouldn’t bring her books into the classroom, most likely. Unless I had an entire classroom of girls…anyway. These are the kinds of books that I believe critics are thinking of.

But think about this: we are in a golden age of young adult literature. Yes there is bad stuff, but there is bad stuff in regular literature as well. And there is so much GOOD young adult literature out there. Have you read John Green? Meg Cabot? Sarah Dessen? Tamora Pierce? Rick Riordan? Suzanne Collins? Libba Bray? Cinda Williams Chima? Stephen Chobsky? Deb Caletti? Morgan Matson? Kristin Cashore? Douglas Adam? I mean, I could go on and on and on. These books are written for adolescents in the voice of adolescents. These books are funny and engaging and entertaining and contemporary. They tell you great stories that are easy to understand and fun to read.

But these books aren’t superficial and just for entertainment. They touch on real issues: death, suicide, rape, abuse, relationships, sex, abandonment, family issues, friendships, coping, losing their virginity, peer pressure, drugs, alcohol and more and more and more. And all of these issues and themes…are they not themes that we see in the classics that we already read?

And whether or not the classics should be read or not is not the point. The point is, its hard enough to read the classics when you’re an advanced or competent reader. Imagine how hard it is for a remedial reader, which a lot of kids in high school are. The classics are hard to understand; the language is different and difficult, the issues are outdated (although, not always), etc. In contemporary youg adult fiction, we can have some of the same situations, issues or themes but in a world that these kids can understand. In contemporary YA fiction, we can garner some interest in reading and perhaps start discussions.

Okay, and let’s face it. Kids and teenagers are reading more and more nowadays and what are they reading? Three words: Young. Adult. Literature. They’re already doing it. Go out and look, pay attention. Kids are gobbling up these books because there are so MANY CHOICES. Kids are going nuts for John Green and Suzanne Collins and all those authors. So if they’re already reading it, shouldn’t we try and get something out of it besides just the pleasure of reading the book? Turn it into a dicussion the way you would discuss something in The Great Gatsby or Hamlet. Kids can still exercise their minds, tackle complex ideas and formulate new opinions…but in a way that they can relate to.

Honest, I love young adult fiction; its what I most read. You guys obviously know this by reading my blog…and you may have noticed it from my Stop Picking On YA! post a few weeks back. I am a firm believer in it. I feel like it can accomplish so much.

One, it can get kids to read. I’ve seen it happen! I’ve seen kids pick up Harry Potter or Percy Jackson or Hunger Games or John Green or whatever and they start to read…they keep reading. Kids who didn’t use to read, kids who never enjoyed it or had a desire to read…they’re suddenly reading! Who cares what they are reading? They’re reading and even if what they’re reading isn’t the most fantastically written stuff, they are still getting something out of it…and it often leads them to better written books. They are improving their reading and comprehension skills…which is wonderful because these are SO essential to being successful in your education.

Two, I feel like we can learn a lot from it. Any success I’ve had in my reading, or comprehension or even my writing skills have come from my nonstop reading. People tell you all the time: READ, READ, READ. Reading gives you better knowledge, better skills…so much. And there is so much good young adult fiction out there. Instead of using the same novels over and over again with limited success, we should try something new! Let’s discuss the theme of death, but instead of Hamlet or The Scarlet Letter, lets use The Fault in Our Stars or Hunger Games or Harry Potter. We can learn so much and accomplish so much more if we adjust to for the times.

Third, and last, the classics weren’t always accepted. I mean, a good share of them were but not always. And they had to go through all kinds of scrutiny and process to get into the high school curriculum. I mean, look at The Outsiders. That was one of the first real young adult novels and most kids read it in late middle school/early high school. And there is still controversy, so to speak, about the books that are already learned in school. There always will be. No one is ever going to completely agree…but I’d hope that we could agree on the advancement of our education…because come on, there a ton of kids out there that still lack basic reading comprehension and understanding of themes and such.

I know some of you may get tired of me defending young adult literature, or talking about young adult literature…and honestly, if that’s the way you feel, maybe this blog isn’t really meant for you. Like I said before, its something that I feel passionately about. I was lucky enough to have a natural love for reading…I’ve ALWAYS loved it and I’ve always had the ability to understand it and take away from it. Not everyone has that. And everyone should. Reading has benefitted me in so many ways: in my life, in my morals and views, in my education, in my relationships with people and on and on and on. I feel like everyone should have the chance to enjoy reading.

In the words of my queen, J.K. Rowling, “If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.”

The books we’re using now? They aren’t working. They just aren’t. I think its about time that we start finding more options and more books…finding those right books for every kid out there. Maybe its Great Gatsby…and maybe its Looking for Alaska. Either way, that’s my plan and that’s what I think.

What about you?

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YA For NJ: Authors Stepping Up to Help Out

If it weren’t enough that reading is so much fun and teaches me and makes me happy and so on and so forth, sildenafil it gives back.

There are a billion authors out there that give back. J.K. Rowling fell on the list of Forbes richest because of the amazing amount of money that she spends on charities. Meg Cabot donates all proceeds from her book Ransom my Heart (written as her fictional character Mia Thermopolis) to Greenpeace. John Green has openly donated to plenty of projects. Authors are fantastic.

And here’s just one more reason to remember how amazing authors are.

It’s called YA For NJ.

And its simple: its a bunch of young adult authors (mostly those east coast ones) teaming up together to raise money for Hurricane Sandy relief. Many of the authors doing this live on the east coast and experienced Hurricane Sandy personally and want to give back to their own backyards.

So there is an ebay page set up (click it right here)

You can bid on several different things in order to raise money for the relief fund: autographed books, visit this autographed arcs (books that aren’t published yet), autographed collection of books, school visits, panel events, manuscript and query letter critiques, dedications in future books, your name in future books, and so on.

And there are a TON of authors doing it. Libba Bray (a signed copy of the Diviners and autographed copies of her Gemma Doyle trilogy). Jen Calonita. Sarah Dessen. Jerry Spinelli. James Patterson. Elizabeth Scott. Melissa da la Cruz. Holly Black. Carol Snow. Kieran Scott. Lauren Oliver.

The list goes on and on and on. A ton of really great authors.

So its amazing opportunity. You can have a chance to own an autographed copy of an author you love or you could get to have a skype chat with them, or have your writing critiqued.

And all of the money earned goes to help people in need. Its wonderful.

So go out there and bid on stuff. I have my eye out on that Gemma Doyle trilogy…I worship Libba Bray…and help out, you know? Our biggest weapon is our brain…and some of the best weapons in the world are books (thank you, doctor who) and lets use them, in any way we can to help out.

I urge you to check out the ebay page and make some bids, or check out their faecbook page for more information.

And may I say…young adult literature, just another reason it rocks :)

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Stop Picking on YA Literature!

Today in my children’s literature class, ailment we had a lecture on young adult literature.

And it was really super interesting.

We all know how much I love YA literature. This is beyond obvious.

So the class today was really informative and one that I definitely am glad that I didn’t miss.

I mean, what is ed did you know that S.E. Hinton was sixteen when she wrote The Outsiders? Now, I’m not a #1 fan of the Outsiders but that is seriously badass. As an aspiring writer, I must admit that I am quite impressed.

But it really got me thinking about young adult literature in general. I remember when I was younger and there wasn’t much of a young adult section in the bookstore. I remember having to special order books because bookstores would never have them.

But now that’s definitely changed. Young adult literature has exploded in the last ten years. Exploded.

And let’s think about that for a moment. Kids and teenagers are reading more than ever. I think a lot of it stems from Harry Potter. Harry Potter opened up a lot-it opened up the doors to new ideas and it opened up the doors of a new approach on writing and reading. J.K.R. showed that kids and teens WILL read and they’ll read long books too (I mean, Order of the Phoenix is HUGE!)

And think of everything that has come since then: The Hunger Games, Percy Jackson, Mortal Instruments, Twilight series, the Fallen series, the Gemma Doyle series, the Inheritance series, etc. There are authors like Meg Cabot, Sarah Dessen, John Green, Maureen Johnson, Jay Asher, Deb Caletti and so on and so on.

Young adult literature is HUGE!

And it helps so much that so many of the movies that have been hitting the theaters in the past few years have been coming from popular YA novels (notice that I said popular, not good. Though I think most of these are good).

Harry Potter.

Twilight.

Percy Jackson.

Perks of Being a Wallflower.

City of Bones.

Hunger Games.

The Fault in Our Stars (John Green) is optioned to be a movie, same with Fallen (Lauren Kate), Divergent (Veronica Roth), Thirteen Reasons Why (Jay Asher) and so many more. Delirium and Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver.

Don’t forget that The Vampire Diaries is a ridiculously popular TV series.

I literally could keep going. I won’t though…

There is also the fact that most authors nowadays are on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, instagram, Youtube and so on. Authors are so accessible nowadays. I’ve been tweeted by Libba Bray, Meg Cabot, Cassandra Clare, Jen Calonita. I’ve had Facebook conversations with Meg Cabot, Jen Calonita and Cinda Williams Chima.

But let’s make this very clear:

Not all of young adult literature is good. In fact, there is a good amount that is fairly bad.

Now, I liked the Twilight series. I kind of liked the Fallen series. They are entertaining and they keep me reading. They are also not the best written books around. There are books like The House of Night series (ugh) and Hush, Hush, Gossip Girl, etc. I can’t sit here and attack these books (I mean, those guys have a publishing deal and I don’t…) but I do think that the bad YA books can be the ones that bring such negative view to the young adult genre.

Because the fact is, there is a lot of fantastic young adult literature. People like John Green, Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, Jen Calonita, Jay Asher, Suzanne Collins, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Meg Cabot. These people are genuinely talented writers. They tell great stories.

But there’s more to it than that. They capture the young adult essence. They capture what its like to be a teenager and they capture the sort of things that they’re dealing with, from things like friendships and relationships and family issues to sex and sexuality and drugs and abuse. There are books that touch on so many teen issues and its amazing, especially since they’re usually so on touch with it and since the stories are so good.

Don’t deny it. We all remember the teen years. We all remember how hard they were. They weren’t easy and I don’t care how old you are, you remember how it felt. Why do you think young adult literature is also read by adults too? (Do I qualify as a young adult anymore…)

I also think that young adult literature gets a really bad reputation, because of more than just the good books vs. bad books (Sorry, Twilight, I’m looking at you). I think a lot of parents are really uncomfortable with some of the issues that are brought up in these books.

For instance, sex. There is a lot of sex in young adult novels. I’m not talking Fifty Shades of Grey here (UGH) but they’re teenagers! For the most part, these characters are from the ages of 15 to 19. They’re hormonal and thinking about sex. So of course sex is going to be discussesd, maybe more than that.

To parents, I say this: GET OVER IT. If you have talked to your teen about sex, then you have nothing to worry about. They will make the right decision, either way. If you haven’t talked to them about, then let them read it. You don’t have the cajones to talk to them about it and someone should!

I further think that parents have issue with the portrayal of adults in a lot of these novels. Parents can often times be the bad guy (Mortal Instruments, Delirium), they can be defied or disobeyed (Divergent), or neglectful (Hunger Games) or even addicts (Gemma Doyle). And here’s my answer to that: GET OVER IT. They are parents like that, wehther you like or not. If you’re a good parent, you’re okay. And yeah, parents aren’t perfect and that’s okay too. Maybe they’ll appreciate you more after reading about these parents.

My point is, (and believe me, my point has changed at least four times), young adult literature should be treated the same way as any other literature or form of writing whether it’s children literature or biography or fiction or nonfiction or whatever. Some of it is going to be bad (really, really bad). Some of it is going to be good (really, really good).

But just think of the impact that it can have.

Because of YA, I want to be a writer. Because of YA, I have learned so much about life and I have learned different morals and values. Because of YA, I have learned so much about myself. Because of YA, I am the avid reader that I am. Because of YA, I have this blog.

And come on, young adult literature is awesome. And its there for everyone no matter what age or gender you are. It’s made for PEOPLE.

And if you ever need a recommendation, trust me, I got your back :)

What’s your favorite young adult novel???? As always, share in the comments.

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