16 September 2009

What is YA? II - or the boogeyman in the basement (UPDATED*)

Young Adult. As a category. It does tend to mystify certain people. Not us. We're not mystified. We're won over. But some [old adults?] are all furrowed brow and shrugged shoulders."What exactly is a young adult?" they ask. "Is it a teenager? Is it a twenty-something?"

Way back on the other side of Autumn we contemplated this very question. And, well, because it's one of the things we love most in the whole wide world, we do keep returning to it as a topic.

So how delighted are we that Karen Healey's first column for Strange Horizons was inspired by a contentiously named YA session - featuring Isobelle Carmody, Justine Larbalestier, Scott Westerfeld and chaired by the indomitable Agnes Nieuwenhuizen - at the recent Melbourne Writers Festival?

Just in case you are still wondering, we are very delighted. Taking Over the Grown-ups table indeed. Boogeymen in the basement my eye.

So scoot on over to Where the Popular Kids are Sitting and check out Karen's column. She has many clever and astute things to say, such as:
Young adult fiction and speculative fiction, to me, tend to ask the same eternally fascinating questions about identity and ethics, and often present their researches into those central questions in entertaining packages. It's not that adult literary fiction can't do the same, but my hit rate tends to be higher in those parts of the bookstore.

"Science fiction's what they used to call the YA section before there was a YA section," Westerfeld said, and effortlessly articulated the feeling I'd had for years.
And the best bit is that it's a regular column. Yes! We can bookmark it. We can keep coming back for more. Oh hooray. Hooray for Healey!

*UPDATE Ooh look! It's not just us and Karen Healey feeling the need to talk about what YA is - so is Mary Pearson, author of the very fine The Adoration of Jenna Fox. Check out her post, What YA Lit is and isn't, over at tor.com.


cc said...

"During endless university reading lists of dreary and unlikable protagonists aimlessly drifting through non-plots, it was a huge relief to pick up my for-me reading. YA non-genre fiction, incidentally, is proof that literary fiction set in the "real" world isn't required to be pretentious and narrative-free."

I hears ya, sister!

Writing a thesis has ruined my desire to read for pleasure, but I still love reading YA. Thanks for keeping up the supply Onions!

Ryan said...

Thanks for the link, Alien, in characteristically charming style.

I keep hearing people saying YA's recognition as culturally
valueable literature is threatened by naysayers, but I have never
come across such detractors.

I'd like to know more about this question of where these fears come
from. Do you have some ideas? I'll ask Karen Healey as well, and have posted the question on my blog: http://ryan-paine.com/home/2009/09/22/inferiority-complex-much/