Opinion: Young adult literature lacks substance

Illustration by Xela Quintana.

Literature is a classic art form.

To have it be butchered by John Green, teenage hormones and vampires is offensive to the literate.

Young adult literature sets a low bar for the reader who will measure overall quality by counting page numbers rather than actual literary merit.

It then falls into two categories.

Category ‘the world is too ugly to function’ perpetuates a theme of misfit toy characters that are spontaneous, wild and impulsive but always have a breakdown by chapter 10 about how their dad is distant.

Usually the main character has been sexually abused, suffers from severe mental illness, is an orphan or a combination of all three.

The problem is not the subjects or themes of these stories. The problem is these stories always end before the main character has gained a sense of self or has just started their road to recovery and healing.

They end before the main character is at peace and leaves readers with the falsehood that the hardest step is admission to the problem when in actuality the hardest step is dealing with the problem.

Category ‘adult authors trying too hard to relate to teenagers’ sets a dynamic of an overuse of emoticons, switching to text format in the middle of a paragraph, or simply reading as an Urban Dictionary post because of the hackneyed use of slang.

This category of young adult literature features key players like manic pixie dream girl and her minority best friend along with her fake deep boyfriend and his minority best friend.

Not to say that YA titles do not have value. YA titles have created a $4.27 billion revenue in 2015 which was surveyed from the Association of American Publishers.

From about 4,700 YA titles published in 2002 to over 10,000 YA books published in 2012. The genre is here to stay and its market is widening with e-book and online reading expansions.

Authors misallocate the use of their skill in order to indulge in the banal plots of heterosexual romances, best friend betrayals or fabricating loose ties to the supernatural world.

It is belittling to young readers that should be challenged toward higher levels of comprehension and critical thinking.

This cannot be achieved when the plots and themes are set to mirror the low stakes dramatics of high school and made to uphold a shallow level of emotional maturity.

These books should do what literature is supposed to do: make the reader think and feel what they have not thought or felt.

This is best done with the graphic novel format, because the reciprocity between art and prose creates a deeper level of understanding and emotional connection.

The reader’s understanding is solidified, because illustration coupled with caption removes confusion and gets to the important part of literature, the story.

A common misconception of graphic novels is that book illustrations equate to being inherently juvenile. However, the medium has attracted authors in search of a creative platform to relate their journeys.

Each illustrators’ personal style affects the overall tone of the story meaning an intimate connection is made deeper simply by communicating an idea through the two levels of art and literature.

The graphic novel creates a greater emotional response simply because it is doing more to stimulate the reader. A layer to the story is gained by not only feeling the words but seeing their importance.


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