Saturday 7 June 2014

Blog Every Day in June Day 7: YA Literature and the Media

This post originally appeared recently on the fantastic blog and resource Teen Librarian Toolbox . Many thanks to Karen Jensen for letting us include it here for #blogjune, and for writing such a candid post as a passionate YA librarian in the US addressing the misconceptions about Young Adult literature. You can follow Karen on twitter @TLT16 .

Dear Media, Let me help you write that article on YA literature

Recently, there have been a voluminous number of articles written about YA literature. And they are mostly wrong. So if you are a member of the press and given this assignment, I thought I would help you out a little. But first, let me start by telling you why I am, in fact, qualified to help you out. Credentials are important, something these articles always seem to lack.

What It Means to be a YA Librarian 

So, this is me: I have been a YA librarian for 20 years. Non stop. Dedicated. There are lots of people like me out there, you should talk to us before you write an article on YA. I started in 1993 as a paraprofessional while in college working on my undergraduate degree with a major in Christian Education/Youth Ministry and a minor in Adolescent Psychology and Development. After graduating I went on to get my Masters in Library Science with an area of specialization in Young Adult Services and Youth Services. I have worked in 4 different libraries as a YA librarian in 2 different states. And I have read well over 2,000 YA novels. In addition, I have read reviews and articles on the topic way more numerous than I could even begin to count or articulate. In fact, I have been professionally writing YA reviews for VOYA magazine for 13 years now. Sometimes I even turn those reviews in on time. There are many more qualified, knowledgeable, dedicated and passionate YA librarians out there. So the next time you have to write an article on YA, please take 30 minutes out of your day and pick up your phone to call your local public library and ask to speak to the YA librarian. In fact, call 3. It's called research.

So now that we've established that I am somewhat qualified to talk to you about YA lit, let me get a few basics out of the way for you.

YA Lit isn't so much a genre as it is an age designation

YA literature, or young adult literature, is also called teen fiction. That's because it is primarily written for teenaged people and it generally features teenaged characters. There is also middle grade fiction (MG lit), for middle grade readers approximately ages 8 to 12 or 13ish. And there is adult fiction. These aren't so much genres as they are age classifications to let readers know who the target audience is. But it's not a hard, steadfast rule because teens read MG and Adult fiction and that is a good thing. And adults read MG and YA fiction, and that is a good thing too. In fact, if you are the parent of a teenager, someone who works with teenagers or someone who cares about teenagers, well then I recommend that you occasionally read YA because then you can talk to them about books, or about life. Despite what a lot of people seem to think, the term YA is not a signifier of quality any more than saying a book is written for adults is a signifier of quality. It's really more of a target audience indicator that assists readers in book selection. Teens like to read about teens for the same reasons that married adults who have children like to read about married adults that have children or sports fans like to read about sports: they can relate to it, they are looking for validation, it interests them because it speaks to where they are at in that particular moment of their life, etc.

Under the umbrella of YA fiction, there is any and every genre

YA fiction is not any one thing. In part because YA readers are not any one thing. A YA novel can be contemporary fiction, it can be a mystery, it can be a romance, it can be a horror novel, it can be fantasy, it can be science fiction, it can be magical realism. It can be any of the many numerous genres out there. In fact, sometimes it is a cross between a couple of genres. For example, it can be a historical fiction novel with paranormal or supernatural elements. And I know this is hard to comprehend, but most people are complex beings who are capable of liking more than one genre at a time. Teens are no different, that is why YA is full of a wide variety of genres.


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