In the past several years young-adult fiction has been a healthy and well-performing segment of the publishing industry, and has received added scrutiny as a result. A debate has raged surrounding the value of young-adult fiction. Is it of any literary value? Should anyone be reading it at all?
On one side is the perception that young adult fiction is a collection of alternative, angst-ridden characters on either grandiose or self-centered plot lines that, when taken together, form a stereotype into which the average young-adult novel fits, and that easily attracts the average young-adult. Such formulaic and simplistic content may produce blockbusters, some say, but certainly cannot produce worthwhile literature.
On the other hand, the alternative perception is that young-adult fiction addresses critical themes for a transitioning, and (historically) rather new subset of the population. Coupled with recognition that young adult fiction writers have produced many bestselling AND award winning titles, this adds great value to the genre for many others.
If young-adult fiction does fit nicely into the stereotype some have made it out to be, does it really fall too far short of the typical Dan Brown, John Grisham, or Brad Thor thriller that follow as predictable a path, yet are somehow a grade above YA?
Perhaps this debate itself is worthless when America at large read so little. Indeed, only 28% of Americans reported reading 11 or more books during the entire year of 2013. Should we be grateful anyone is reading anything at all?
Some point to evidence that reading young-adult fiction provide intangible benefits, including aiding the development of empathy in an adolescent brain. Our world could do with a little more empathy right now.
Many appeal to time-honored, cultivated taste, while others chalk it up to snobbery, but perhaps quality isn’t determined by box-office numbers or centuries in-print. Perhaps quality is in the eye of the beholder. Certainly there is a little grey mixed into this debate that has become so black and white. We ought to be careful to disregard an entire sector of the publishing industry without proper reflection.
But don’t take my word for it; read further and decide for yourself.