Young Adult Fiction…What is it Really?

codenameverity__spanI just finished reading Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. J had borrowed the eBook from the library, pretty much couldn’t put it down, and suggested I would probably like it as well. It is a great read, particularly if you like historical fiction. After finishing the book (which I’m not going to tell you much about) I went looking for more by the same author and to my surprise found that I had been tricked into reading young adult fiction.

Normally, I wouldn’t browse this category when looking for something to read. Reading this one made me wonder what it was that puts books into the category. It can’t be the age of the main characters because all of the characters in this book are at least nineteen and likely in their early to mid twenties. The work they are doing in World War Two is definitely adult work. The sounds and smells of the Gestapo information extraction machine left enough to the imagination to actually make the experience the stuff of nightmare. Again pretty adult.

Code Name Verity may be young adult fiction because it does not have the obligatory three pages of steamy sex every four chapters, or even an angst charged love triangle, but there is enough hints to make the book somewhat titillating while still leaving the reader wondering what indeed the relationship between the main characters really is. Are they just good friends or was there more going on?

Wein’s work is not long, but neither is most of what Hemigway did and I don’t think you would categorize his work as young adult fiction. It is easy to read,but it is not simple. At the end you wonder if you should go and read it again because the book is so wonderfully crafted that you need the end to understand what is really going on at the beginning.

If this is young adult fiction I want to read more of it!

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2 thoughts on “Young Adult Fiction…What is it Really?

  1. If you don’t mind reading a dog chewed copy, you could borrow Rose Under Fire from me. Not as good as Code Name Verity in my opinion though…

  2. There’s a lot of good stuff that’s been marketed at YA audiences recently. (Where recently is defined as, “since I was in the proper YA demographic”)

    It used to seem like YA meant “Poorly written mass produced books featuring teenaged characters and mature themes” Mature themes usually meant sex or death. If I recall correctly, the result used to be that when I was 11-13 or so and there wasn’t much left on the library’s kids shelves for me, the YA section was in many cases worse for that kind of thing than many choices on the adult shelves.

    But around the time that the last few Harry Potter books were still selling like crazy someone woke up and realised that teenagers tend to read as much or more than adults and if something interesting was marketed at them they would buy it. YA sections are way bigger and more interesting than they used to be. These days it often means that they’re kind of light reads. Straightforward writing styles, not extremely densely plotted, they don’t usually read as particularly “literary”. Sometimes they have younger characters, but the definition of younger has been considerably stretched.

    But yes. Lots of good stuff in the YA section. Especially if you mostly look at stuff published in the 21st century.

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