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Y.A. Fiction Isn't Just For Kids

The Joys of Reading From the Kid's Section

By Natalie GrayPublished 11 months ago 3 min read
Y.A. Fiction Isn't Just For Kids
Photo by Robyn Budlender on Unsplash

Nothing can quite describe the joy of walking through the Junior's or Young Adult section of a library when you're a kid. Moving up at last from picture books to chapter books is a heck of a milestone: for once you feel grown up, sophisticated, not like the babies sitting in a circle for story time and hand puppets. It's a feeling that can't quite be explained, and once that magic is gone it's almost impossible to recapture it.

I don't know what it is exactly about Y.A. fiction that I actually love as a woman in my early thirties. Adult fiction is fine, don't get me wrong. The problem with most "adult" novels is that they tend to overcomplicate simple themes, or maybe they deal with themes too realistic to fuel that particular escape I'm looking for. Y.A. fiction, though... that's a whole different animal.

There's something so beautiful and colorful about the worlds captured within the pages of Y.A. fiction. Maybe it's the sheer childlike wonder that the protagonists feel, or just the simple formulaic fun that is "the hero's journey". There's a kind of freedom that writer's of Y.A. fiction seem to work with so well, that author's of adult fiction just can't seem to grasp. To me, at least, the allure of a boy hero fighting monsters and doing magic is far more compelling than a gritty realistic novel about a lawyer standing in front of a courtroom. With Y.A. fiction, anything is possible: you can have monsters, fairies, dragons, ancient gods and goddesses, zombies, adventures in outer space. Whatever you can imagine, you can probably find between the covers of a Y.A. novel.

I know what some people might be thinking by now: "those books are for kids. How can all that stuff really be enjoyable or of any substance?" While I agree that most Y.A. fiction can be rather simplistic, there are a handful of authors that write with such passion that their works can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. Yes, their stories appear simple on the surface. Dig a little deeper, however, and the complexity and beauty of their stories become breathtaking.

Consider one of the most beloved novels of the twentieth century: my personal favorite book, J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. Technically, this book falls within the category of Y.A. fiction, and yet I know plenty of adults who enjoy it very much. The way it's written, it doesn't feel at all like a kid's book: the characters are well-rounded and feel realistic, the danger the protagonists face leave your heart pounding, the heavy moments are just heavy enough without being suffocating, and the light moments in between are purely exhillarating. Tolkien seems to have struck a perfect balance with this novel, making it a joy to read and re-read again and again.

Now let's take a gander at his follow-up series, The Lord of the Rings. I absolutely adore The Lord of the Rings, whether it be the books, the various film adaptations or the Amazon Prime Spin-off. The world of Middle Earth is so vast and rich, any story that comes out of it is compelling.

However...

The language in the original Lord of the Rings trilogy, being directed at an adult audience, is much drier than in its predecessor. It takes much longer to get to the meat of the story, because for the first few chapters of The Fellowship of the Ring nothing much really happens. There's a lot more talking, giving the entire first half of the novel a sense of "hurry up and wait". In the follow up books, The Two Towers and The Return of the King, the themes steadily become heavier as the protagonists move closer to their end goal at the climax. Of course, the entire premise of the book is a journey to stop a world-ending war and defeat an uncontrollable evil, so it's foolish to expect the heroes to go skipping merrily down the path to their destiny. We're not even going to get into The Silmarillion; that dusty tome is drier than plain toast with no butter, reading more like a history textbook than an epic fantasy novel.

Sometimes the world feels like a vacuum, unapologetically sucking all the joy and life out of you without the slightest hint of remorse. When it feels like you're being ground into the dirt and the universe itself is against you, cozying up with a Y.A. novel feels so therapeudic. Sometimes you just want the comfort of a quick, familiar tale, maybe one you first discovered when you were much younger. Like having a conversation with an old, dear friend. The joy of that first read can't ever be recaptured... but the warmth a re-read provides is more than enough for me.

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About the Creator

Natalie Gray

Welcome, Travelers! Allow me to introduce you to a compelling world of Magick and Mystery. My stories are not for the faint of heart, but should you deign to read them I hope you will find them entertaining and intriguing to say the least.

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Comments (2)

  • C.T. Davidson11 months ago

    Yes! It perplexes me that people get to a certain age and then - all of a sudden - believe they're too old to read YA. Says who? Well, not me! In fact, when I was getting back into reading, it was Sarah J. Maas who kickstarted me back into books. Loved the message.

  • Hannah Moore11 months ago

    Love this. I wrote about the hobbit recently too! And I'm in my forties and I love YA fiction. I'm lucky to be still sharing a bed time chapter with my kids (we are currently reading The Subtle Knife), but for a long flight, or the flu, YA all the way! There's some brilliant complex stories out there too!

Natalie GrayWritten by Natalie Gray

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