impulsiveingenue: (Default)
impulsiveingenue ([personal profile] impulsiveingenue) wrote2010-10-16 09:32 am
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On YA Fiction

Defining Young Adult (YA) fiction is a little hard. Does Bruce Coville count as YA? My library shelves his work mostly in the J section (all his books that I ever read, anyway). JK Rowling straddles the divide - we have copies of Order of the Phoenix in both sections. I've seen a lot of stuff in YA, though, that deals with themes you definitely wouldn't expect to see in the Js.

The real problem for me is that I pretty much skipped over YA fiction in my development as a reader. I was happy enough reading the usual kids' stuff like Beverly Cleary until I saw the cover to Jurassic Park and holy crap it had dinosaurs on it and that was pretty much that. I was eight at the time, for reference. That pretty much did me in. I don't recall which books I read right afterwards because I read them all a dozen times after that at least, but to give you an idea of what the situation was like, I raided my dad's sci-fi collection and read The Forever War. This is a novel about relativistic time dilation making an interstellar war last over a millennium, basically an allegory for the alienation the author felt after returning from Vietnam. It's kind of hard to take a step back from the adult-oriented fiction after something like that.

So the YA section is largely a mystery to me, despite the fact that I routinely handle the books for processing and shelving. One series I kept seeing was the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld, and I kept wondering what the hell the deal was with those books with the distinctive covers and titles, and eventually last month I just broke down and read the first book in the series, figuring that at least my curiosity would be satisfied and that my brain could do with a little popcorn reading after The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Then I read the second book.

Then I read the third.

I was kind of surprised by how much I enjoyed the books. I mean, the main character is a dumbass teenager and routinely does dumbass teenager things while worrying about dumbass teenager drama, but there was something deeper going on. It wasn't until the third book, where the main character's body was referred to as excessively "weaponized," that I realized I was reading a series of books about a transhuman dystopia. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised, considering that I know full well that Westerfeld writes sci-fi (I shelve enough of his books...), but I really didn't expect to come across that particular subject in the YA section. It's rare enough in adult fiction.

So I've been paying the YA section a bit more attention than I used to. Once I finish The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, I've got a pretty lengthy list of other books I want to read, but maybe I'll shoehorn in some more "popcorn reading."