Young adult literature teaches life lessons


Lily Tran, Feature Editor

A book can be a magical, powerful thing, especially in the hands of impressionable young adults. The power, however, doesn’t always lie within specific words or actions; instead it is in the lessons and ideals that add moral complexity to the popular young adult genre.

The seriousness and complexity of YA books and their morals were rarely questioned until the genre experienced a sudden boom with bestsellers “Harry Potter Series” by J.K. Rowling, “The Twilight Saga” by Stephenie Meyer, and “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green.

The questions about life and its problems being asked in YA books lead readers to find and search for answers in the form of themes and lessons. Readers find ways to fit stories into their personal lives that help them better understand not only themselves, but their culture and society.

“Moral complexity can come from a deeper meaning, like having the characters symbolize ideas or problems in society,” sophomore Benjamin Gyman said.

Books like “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding have boys who symbolize parts of the Freudian Theory: the id, the superego, and the ego. Other stories like the “Harry Potter Series” act as a parable for the Holocaust with villain Voldemort representing an oppressive and discriminating tyrant like Hitler.

The young adult genre has widely expanded since the beginning of YA novels to today. Judy Blume wrote her classic coming of age tale “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” in 1970 where young girls begin puberty and deal with their lack of self-confidence.

Today John Green, one of the most prolific YA authors, takes on serious topics like death in his “The Fault in Our Stars,” and “Looking for Alaska.” The morals and lessons expressed in today’s YA novels have broadened and taken on the route of self-discovery, acceptance, coping with tragedy and acting against oppressive forces.

“YA is for audiences that are my age,” sophomore Diana Barajas said. “I like being able to relate to a character who’s going through something that I could be going through. It’s more personal for me.”

The targeted audience is for ages 12-18, which is one reason why the genre is so popular and has a wide viewing. Adults even make up the majority of YA readers, shown by a 2012 study by Publishers Weekly: 55 percent of YA books were bought and read by adults.

Another factor that draws in many readers is the escapism of YA stories, allowing readers to explore the world from another point of view.
“I enjoy the fictitiousness,” Gyman said. “The reason why you read a book is to escape normal life.”

For some, diving into another world provides a sort of haven. Books in the YA genre submerge readers into a new world with conflicts that are realistic enough that they could be experienced in real life.

YA stories introduce the immediacy of life-changing conflicts and how to deal with these problems with little to no previous experience.
The readers of the YA genre are learning important lessons that lead to self-acceptance and how to keep going when situations become difficult.

“A lot of the books I read teach things like don’t give up,” junior Brianna Phovixay said. “If you go through something rough, you shouldn’t give up. There is always something there that could help you.”

Still, other YA works emphasize the opposite message: it is not wrong to accept defeat.

“I’ve learned that sometimes, it’s okay to give up,” Gyman said.

The YA genre seems capable of covering all angles of moral complexity.

“The most important lesson I’ve learned is finding yourself and staying that way and not allowing the world to change who you are based on the status quo,” Mai said.

One thing can be certain: young adult books will always leave a lasting impact and hold a special place in the hearts and minds of those who read them.