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Y.A. Has ‘Good’ Writing Too

June 14, 2010

There’s a huge dichotomy between ‘important’ fiction and ‘unimportant.’ I know this because I often see the book world divided by these sorry distinctions: Literary fiction is ‘important’ and well-written; YA is immediately unimportant, meant for lower earthlings or, shock, young adults. Sure there are exceptions. Ender’s Game is one of my favorite books, though, if I’d never read it, I’d certainly have an opinion on its ‘worth’ simply based on the cover edition I was reading, which ranges from sophisticated to cartoonish. For most of my life, in fact, I’ve had Literary Fiction Superiority Complex (LFSC), and thought YA should eat my waste products.

Then I read The Hunger Games. I’d heard about it on the blogosphere, had thought the premise was mildly interesting, saw a friend reading it this past weekend and was curious to see if the first page could dazzle me.

Well, dazzle me this, Batman, how do you turn an egotistical aspiring literati into a down-to-earth homosapien, begging to buy the entire trilogy of Suzanne Collins bestselling series? You remind her that there is a true art to writing the YA novel.

I often turn my nose on YA authors–just as Sociology is considered less pure than Physics or Math, Y.A. is considered impure and ‘undifficult’ compared to ‘grownup’ books, right? And in truth, I’ve often snorted at certain blog posts detailing the complexity of writing a YA narrative and providing examples of how to set up description, etc, because really, what’s so hard about getting another work of chick lit on the shelves?

But The Hunger Games is not simply an amazing premise–a gritty, action-packed story concerning a post-apocalyptic world where teens are chosen by lottery to fight to the death to both curb overpopulation and bolster the government’s power–it doesn’t simply feature a strong, capable heroine, but it is also well-written, in a way that I can’t say Twilight (if I hear her use “dazzling” one more time…) or Harry Potter ever was.

The Hunger Games sets the stakes, creates a noble, but flawed protagonist, keeps it emotional and action-packed, and more than adequately describes a new world. The book reminds me of all the books I loved when I was younger (shoutout to Garth Nix’s Abhorsen trilogy, to anything Orson Scott Card, to T.A. Barron’s Merlin series, to the first Artemis Fowl), and it reminds me that just because I’m ‘all-growned-up’ doesn’t mean YA can’t entertain, or that it still doesn’t have something to teach me.

More about What Literary Fiction Can Learn From The YA Novel in my next post.

Meanwhile, what YA books have taught you how to be a better writer? How have you begun to approach YA (or MG, children’s, genre fiction) since you’ve begun to read ‘adult’ books? ‘Literary’ books? What do you think of The Hunger Games?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Wilmer G. Rowe permalink
    October 17, 2013 9:19 pm

    I don’t read much young adult fiction, but I read both The Hunger Games and the Harry Potter series this year. But to be frank, the Harry Potter books bored me. The combination of boarding school pranks, puppy love, and wizardry didn’t convince me these kids could represent the forces of righteousness in the battle between good and evil. As a writer, I was impressed with J.K. Rowling’s fantastic world-building, but she simply didn’t persuade me with her story.


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