When people see teenagers in the wild, also known as the world outside their home, they create a checklist in their mind: the phone, the bored look, and the vacant eyes.
Nowadays, there is a record scratch moment to that checklist. Bibliophilic teenagers are emerging from their hibernation as their arms overflow with books to show to the world. Young Adult Literature is having a resurgence and there is no denying it. The genre’s reach is so strong that Bowker Market Research announced that 55 percent of YA books purchased in 2012 were purchased by adults anywhere from 18 to 44 years old.
Many would be skeptical about the genre’s newfound turn in the spotlight. Possibly, it is because the stories do not solely deal with the melodramatic teenager issues such as crushes not liking the main character back or the sort of high school drama that could bore a reader to tears. As teenagers push their way through into the political sphere, the stories that appear on the YA shelves at bookstores reflect that.
For example, the book, “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas focuses on the Black Lives Matter movement through the eyes of a teenager whose childhood friend gets killed and raises questions within the teenage mind in ways that it may have not worked previously.
The genre also seeks to open up the minds of YA readers, delving into the more difficult-to-read stories found in books such as “All the Bright Places,” and the highly-controversial “Thirteen Reasons Why,” as both stories deal with suicide. The genre is also finding a niche with books dealing with mental illness in stories such as “Made You Up,” “Challenger Deep,” and “Finding Audrey” and more on an ever-expanding list.
YA has helped its readers understand that there is far more going on beyond the metaphorical door of their closed-in community and are thus, creating a more open-minded, empathetic generation.
YA novels also have a sub-genre dealing with fantasy novels, sci-fi, adventure, romance and much more. Despite the common belief that every single fantasy-adventure novel is the next “Hunger Games,” or the next “Divergent.” It is quite the opposite, the novels are becoming more diverse and more outlandish as the years go on and creativity needs to fire on all cylinders to avoid plagiarism or to avoid re-doing a trope that has been done nearly a hundred times before.
There are a series of authors which some may argue have a near-monopoly on the subsection of the genre. Authors like Cassandra Clare and Sarah J. Mass, are often praised for the depth within their characters and masterful world building, yet they leave enough room within the genre for other brilliant authors like Maggie Steifvater to shine.
The genre is becoming so popular that it seeps into Youtube, blogs and even inspired a festival in two locations. Yallfest in Charleston and Yallwest in Santa Monica both have over one hundred authors and presenters that bring forth bad jokes and the immense spirit that YA bibliophiles naturally carry with them. (Let’s face it, their food trucks are pretty great too.) Book hauls, questions as to why the parents are always dead and the general excitement are now part of the YA culture.
In a time where many think that a teenager’s world only goes as far as the walk from their computer screen to the fridge, the bibliophilic teenagers emerge to prove them wrong. The diverse books and excitement are bringing YA books back in the spotlight and making sure that they adorn our shelves many years to come