Sunday, July 19, 2015

Pondering Young Adult Fiction

This week, young adult fiction has been on my mind, which is odd in a way. I don’t write YA fiction and don’t plan to. But I have read a fair bit of it. In fact, some of the most memorable books ever I’ve read fit this category. The Harry Potter series is just one example.

This morning, I was listening to a CBC radio discussion between a book reviewer and the host about Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman. As you probably know, there’s been a great deal of fanfare when the book was released earlier this week. You may also know that the reviews are mixed and not everyone was thrilled with the different perspective on Atticus. I won’t spoil it by telling you why. Plenty of reviewers have already done that. Anyhow, one of the things that struck me during the discussion was the host and reviewer’s agreement that To Kill a Mockingbird was actually a YA novel. After all, the story is told from Scout’s POV.

Looking back, I remember that I was a teen when I first read the book, yet I’ve never thought of the book as YA fiction, especially given that the topics were so serious, so damning, and so adult. I think there’s something about great YA fiction that really sticks with us, perhaps because we read it when we’re young and the emotional impact lingers. Perhaps it’s because a compelling story transcends all age groups and most cultures, I don’t know.

Here’s another YA tidbit. I read a fascinating article in Slate this week about the original ghostwriter of the Nancy Drew series. Her name was Mildred “Millie” Wirt Benson and the article states that she was one of the most interesting women to ever write YA fiction. She was a journalist, aviator, and feminist who published her first Nancy Drew at age 24 in 1930. (By the way, Nancy Drew is now 85. I’d like to think she’s still sleuthing). In addition to the 23 Nancy Drew books Benson produced for the Stratemeyer Syndicate, she also wrote her own children’s books under different names. There’s more interesting stuff about her life, so give the article a read.

Last, but not least, CBC has produced a list called 100 Young Adult Books That Make You Proud to be Canadian. I’ve read Anne of Green Gables and a couple of others. I know many of the authors’ names and titles, but have yet to sit down and read these Canadian YA books. Now, I have another whole list of great reading material to tackle!

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