Wikipedia defines Young-adult fiction (YA) as 'fiction written for, published for, or marketed to adolescents and young adults, roughly ages 14 to 21'. The article goes on to add that YA 'has distinct attributes that distinguish it from the other age categories of fiction.....(they) portray an adolescent as the protagonist, rather than an adult or a child. The subject matter and story lines are typically consistent with the age and experience of the main character, but beyond that YA stories span the entire spectrum of fiction genres.'
Before I start, let me clarify that of the entire bunch, I am, perhaps, the least qualified to write on YA fiction. Leanne writes and sells YA (even if she claims her latest MS has a plot hole large enough for a circus train to go through), Hart has a daughter who fits perfectly into the age category that defines YA, Chary teaches high school students so has to be clued into the latest reading trends, Jason reads more fantasy than anyone else I know (and he claims that is what YA boys read), and though she is wise beyond her years, Cruella is the one closest in age to the YA readership. That leaves just Tara and me as potential YA virgins, but considering she has a step-dot in that age category, perhaps she knows a little more about the genre than I do.
Why then is it that I am blogging about YA? Quite apart from the fact that nobody knows I am writing this post and therefore cannot object, I think it is precisely because I never even heard the term YA till a couple of months back that I am well suited to write about it.
My early teenage years were spent reading Issac Asimov and Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie and Jeffery Archer, Arthur Hailey and Arthur C. Clark (why are so many authors called Arthur, I used to wonder - is it a case of the name defining the profession?). In high school, we somehow endured a play of Shakespeare every year. My grandfather introduced me to G.B. Shaw when I was 13, and I read Mrs Warren's Profession long before I even knew that such a profession even existed. We studied short stories by the Masters in school, and I obsessively read every story ever written by Saki, O' Henry, Katherine Mansfield and Guy de Maupassant. And because I did not want to be considered 'dumb', I read the Classics - Charles Dickens, the Brontë sisters, Jane Austen.
By the time I reached my mid and end teens, I used to pick up pretty much any book I could find and devour it. There were books that I now know were unsuitable for my age, but since nobody knew enough to object, I read them. Books like 'To Kill a Mockingbird' made me think, books by James Michener made me come to terms with who I wanted to be, and that solitary book by Milan Kundera convinced me that every book recommended by a friend was not necessarily worth wasting my youth on.
Was any of it suitable reading for a person my age? Considering no permanent damage seems to have come out of all that reading (no, I cannot see your smirk - I can't see you, remember?), I would think they were fine.
Did I enjoy reading the books I did? Of course I did. If I didn't, wouldn't I have been addicted to the TV rather than to books?
Did I miss not having YA books? Considering it is a little hard to miss something you don't even know exists, I guess not.
If I had my teen years all over again, and if those new teen years were no different from the set of teen years I already had, I would not *need* YA. BUT, I would definitely *want* YA.
Though, after having read 'Dracula', I am not sure if I would have had much more use for the sequels of 'Twilight' than I now do.
Enid Blyton books
Scene from Oliver Twist