Why Young Adult Books Matter
Finding importance and relatability in the stories of youth
By Marley Richmond
As a genre most visible through books about vampires, post-apocalyptic societies, and overly dramatic love stories, young adult literature is often minimized and undervalued. Many readers see “adult” fiction or classic literature as the only worthy reading material. However, this opinion neglects the reality that young adult fiction is a wide genre, including critically acclaimed works (Harry Potter, anyone?). In fact, young adult fiction is not only an important way for adolescents to feel represented and understood, but it can also be a beneficial reminder and learning opportunity for adults who are now unfamiliar with the plight of youth.
One of the prominent complaints about young adult novels is that they are unrealistic and melodramatic, and in some cases they are. Nevertheless, many of these books depict the truth about teenagers’ first encounters with love, loss, and growing up—themes which are inherently intense and only seem cliché because of their universality. Young readers can find their own experiences reflected in these stories more sincerely than in adult fiction, and adults can find an important reminder about the struggles they faced in their own youth.
Another way that young adult literature breaks out of traditional literary molds is in its diversity and current-day relevance. These books have been at the forefront of exploring themes of LGBTQ identities, immigration and assimilation, mental health, and many other aspects of self-image and relationships. Such ideas are rarely as accessible in the literary canon and have only just begun to perforate the adult fiction world.
Above all, many young adult novels just have plain-old good writing and intriguing stories. If 15-year-olds can find value and universal themes in the hundreds-of-year-old classic literature they encounter in high school, surely adults can likewise find the importance and relatability of young adult literature.