Do you remember growing up? If you do in any detail then you’ll most likely remember how strange the experience of being a teenager was. Not only is your system flooded with hormones significantly altering the way you think and your physical appearance, there is also the budding sexuality and as yet unexplored romantic emotions beginning to surface. Not only this, but then there are kids out there who grow up different, and during this time finding literature that offers them not only validation but also escapism can be a literal lifeline. This is part of the reason why Young Adult fiction plays such an important role in our society.
What is Young Adult fiction?
Young Adult fiction (or YA as it is colloquially know) is generally defined as novels and other works of fiction aimed at individuals between the ages of 14-24. However recent research has shown that over 50% of YA books are purchased by those over 18, which goes to show the universality of the themes this genre generally expresses. One of the most popular narratives explored in YA is that of the ‘problem novel’. These novels generally engage with some type of personal or societal struggle in the form of a realistic fictional cannon. The themes addresses are generally problems that Young Adults themselves might be struggling with such as, drug and alcohol abuse, sexuality, social isolation, family difficulties and many more.
The Function of YA
In this day and age it is common for people to point to the wide variety of inclusive television and movie characters that represent a huge cross section of adolescent experiences. However there is only so much depth that a character can develop over a 30 minute television show or a 2 hour movie, the novel on the other hand offers a far broader and deeper exploration of issues and themes. YA then can function as a type of reassurance that what someone is experiencing is valid and offer not only a means of identification but also function as a means to help them with their own personal struggles.
By being able to identify and read about characters that are dealing with issues similar to their own, young adults can identify and deal with some of their own personal struggles. This can sometimes be a real lifeline for those who are feeling isolated, and it can even change their lives in a really positive way.