Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Stages Of Life, Thematically

Over the years I've heard from people who made it clear that they defined Young Adult fiction as books that didn't include much sex or so-called mature subject matter. I heard of one writer whose publisher was going to market his genre book as a crossover to YA because it was "clean." These folks were living in a dreamworld, of course. In addition, they didn't know what YA was because they didn't understand that it's supposed to be about something, about something different from books that are for other readers.

I frequently find myself explaining that theme is important in YA, since theme, essentially, is what a book is about. A really good YA book includes classic YA themes, such as separating oneself from family, seeking a path in life. Usually the people I'm talking to don't read much YA, so they have no idea what I'm talking about. In fact, I know some of my family members think I'm making this stuff up as I go along.

Oddly enough, I'm clearest on my thinking about YA themes when I'm reading a M(iddle) A(ge) book, as I am right now. MA books deal with disappointment. They deal with coming to terms with what your life has been. That's a very strong contrast to YA books that deal with what your life is going to be.

Books directed to various stages of life address themes important to those stages.

Childhood: After having been the center of the universe in order to survive (cry-get fed, cry-get changed, cry-get attention),I find out that this behavior is no longer going to work for me. How will I get along with others at school, day care, Scouts, the world? How much am I willing to conform in order to get along with others?

Young Adult: Separation. How am I like/different from my family/peer group? What will I do with my life? What will become of me?

Twenty/Thirty Somethings: Life sucks. Shouldn't someone have told me? Now what?

Middle Age: Assessment. How have I spent my life? Did I do good? Is this what I wanted? Is it too late for me?

Older Age: I'm too old to give a damn. My last shot at happiness and fulfillment.

YA fiction isn't the only kind of literature that addresses concerns/themes of a specific age group. Every age has its themes. It's much easier to understand what YA literature is when you understand it in relation to these other types of literature.



Blogger Kelly said...

Love this, Gail! Especially the 20s/30s :)

7:59 PM  

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