YA Shot is an author-run and author-led one-day YA extravaganza and we’re BEYOND excited to be going along in a few weeks. There are going to be 70 – yes, 70! – authors talking on panels and signing as many books as you can drag through London.
An event like that takes a lot of man power to keep it running and we’ve got one of the lovely YA Shot interns, Matthias, telling us about his adventures in YA.
I’m a young adult reader!
I was once having a gentle, but spirited, debate with my dad about the dividing line between children and adults. I forget how the conversation started, but I will never forget where it ended. My dad said, “The thing I don’t like about the term ‘young adult’ is – well, are you young, or are you an adult?”
That question has never really left me. I still wonder if one can be both young and an adult. Throw this question in the context of ‘young adult readers’ and that’s one heck of an argument to consider. Here’s why…
Is there a cut-off age to being young? Is youth merely about an attitude, and not about age at all? Are there certain things that young people naturally say and do that adults don’t? Are there certain things that adults ‘just’ say and do, and are these things all that different? If being young is about preparing to live in the big wide world, being an adult is about actually living in it. If you’re young and you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re more likely to be given a pass. If you’re an adult, that’s not as likely.
It also raises the question of whether there different categories adult. Does adulthood have a certain way or feeling about it? What makes this feeling different from being young? For instance, are the dynamics of adult relationships different to those of youthful ones? Young friendships can be going strong then stop for the smallest of reasons. When you’re an adult, there are usually more significant reasons and layers to relationships that might make such an abrupt stop less likely. The general perception is that in young friendships what matters is how alike you are. In adulthood, they’re often about how you stick around in spite of differences.
Also, is it only ‘nerds’ and ‘bookworms’ who count as ‘readers’, or can you be a part of the club if you read just one book a year, but very intensely and carefully? As far as I’m concerned, if you read, then you’re a reader. It’s difficult and problematic to judge the quality of someone’s reading or how much they enjoy it based on how often they do it.
Now for the big question: can someone be a young adult reader and, if so, does it really matter? I think it’s absolutely possible – and it matters quite a lot.
When you’re a young adult, you’re getting your feet wet with the big wide world: preparation becomes participation. But the thing is, you’re too young to really know what you’re doing. What it means to be young and what it means to be an adult are constantly fighting with one another in a way that isn’t the case for other age groups. Young adult fiction explores this tension and validates the feelings and experiences of young adults, caught in limbo between permanence and structure, and impermanence and chaos.
Literature, among many other things, offers comfort for its readers, and this is no truer than when it speaks directly to readers’ feelings and experiences.
There’s nothing wrong with the classics, but how can we demand that young adults relate to these books? If their own lives are in limbo then it is right that the literature they are reading echoes that: it needs to show that their questions are valid, with or without a straightforward or standard answer. ‘How do I participate in a friendship group without compromising who I am as a person?’ Alice Oseman’s ‘Solitaire’ deals with this brilliantly. ‘How do I manage in school while I’m dealing with serious mental health problems?’ Stephen Chbosky’s ‘The Perks of Being A Wallflower’ offers a compelling story that explores the ups and downs of this process. ‘How do I know if I’m being loved or abused in a relationship?’ Louisa Reid’s Lies Like Love tackles this chillingly. ‘How do I deal with things that are too horrible to talk about?’ Alexia Casale’s ‘The Bone Dragon’ offers one possible answer. The list goes on.
So, my answer to my father’s question ‘Are you young or are you adult?’ is that it depends: sometimes one, sometimes the other, sometimes neither and sometimes both. But whatever I am, I will always like books and, at the end of the day, that’s what really matters. And why do books matter? Because their readers matter, and these readers could do with having their experiences validated in fiction.
Matthias Asiedu-Yeboa is 21 years old and has recently finished an undergraduate degree in English and Creative Writing. He is going on to study a Masters in Writing the Novel as he aspires to becoming a published author.
YA Shot is happening on Saturday 22nd and you can get your tickets RIGHT HERE
Will we see you there? Let us know at @maximumpopbooks
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