Friday, January 22, 2010

My penchant for YA fiction

Hooray for campus interview days at work! Since I’m low enough on the totem pole to not actually do the interviews (I “greet” for an interviewer, which means I'm a glorified receptionist for the day), I have time between escorting hopeful candidates to… get more work done, of course! And post on this blog.

So those of you who have perused my reviews thus far have probably noticed that I have a hankering for the teens and tweens section of the bookstore. I promise that I will review works from the normal sci-fi/fantasy section in the near future! I actually used to read almost exclusively from that sub-genre a few years ago (much love to David Eddings, Raymond E. Feist, and Robert Jordan).

Currently, however, I have been drawn to YA fantasy novels. And not because of phenomena like Harry Potter. (I have yet to read any of Rowling’s mega-hits as of this posting. Don't worry, Sis! It's on my to-do list.) I think I can distill my reasons down to one word:

Simplicity.

In setting, in theme, in language. I love that YA authors tend to keep things simple. For me, one of the challenges of adult fantasy is the complexity and detail overload that bombards the reader. Factions and organizations are interconnected by tentative alliances or centuries of bad blood. Witch-kings and warrior-queens and lord regents and high inquisitors and what-have-you all seek to help or hurt the cast of 50-something main characters, each of whom have suffered the loss of a parent, made love in secret with the enemy, and/or must gather the 198 sacred stones to prevent armageddon. It’s a lot to take in!

Sure, being able to describe the story elements with such attention-to-detail enriches the book’s background and speaks to the genius and creativity of the author. But at the same time, it can bog down the reader who, after a 9- or 10-hour work day, does not have the mental fortitude to make a relief map of the faerie realm or sort out the intrigues within intrigues. (I’m talking about me, obviously.) I’m sad to admit I have yet to finish any of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings novels; that boy had a LOT to say about Middle-earth!

Keep in mind that simple is not mutually exclusive with profound, captivating, or compelling. In many ways, I feel like the spare-yet-elegant nature of YA fantasy fiction enhances the reader's experience, and the author's judicious choice of detail serves to direct, rather than distract, our focus.

Like I said, I will cross back over into “grown up” fantasy for the occasional book or series, but the “page turner” allure of the young adult realm has my heart for the foreseeable future. Haters may call me shallow, immature, simple-minded. I like to think I’m… efficient. :)

Plus, I’m working on a YA novel right now. I need to see what I’m up against!

What is it about the young adult shelf that draws your eye? (Please don't say it's the sexy covers.)

7 comments:

  1. Can I just tell you that sexy covers on YA books really bother me? We're so alike, it's scary. :) And I totally agree with you on those points about YA fiction and you know as well as anyone that it is my favorite genre. It's simple, relatable to more than just the intended audience, and it's fun. How bad can that be? (yes, that was a shout out to Ina)

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  2. Lol, oh Pig! So the black-winged, topless angel on the HUSH, HUSH cover didn't suit your fancy, eh? :)

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  3. Dangit. You took my answer! LOL! I do think the covers are amazing. But for me, it's such a growing time in a person's life. And I like analyzing myself now that I'm grown up a little bit.

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  4. The YA section just feels more vibrant, no matter where you are. I love the energy emanating off the shelves and, I'm not gonna lie, I visualize a whole shelf full of books with my name vertically plastered on their sides.

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  5. @Elana: I totally agree! The coming-of-age theme has universal appeal.

    @Jonathan: You too huh? :) Someday...

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  6. Yeah, the crazy cover for Hush, Hush didn't really work for me but I do LOVE that book, obviously since I own it. But amazingly enough, that cover won a lot of awards last year. Is something wrong with me? :)

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  7. Came over from Jonathan's blog.

    I think I connected most with books through my tween and teen years. I maybe needed them the most then. And that's what I want from my book when it is finally done. And it is darn vibrant there. I want to be vibrant.

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