First, welcome back, Judith and Ellen, from the wildness that was Hurricane
Sandy and for too many, are still stuck in the dark dreariness of the storm's
aftermath. Perhaps this is a good beginning point: do you think many YA
novels were enjoyed the past few weeks?
Ellen: I’d like to say “I hope so!” but I know a lot of the students at the school where I’ve been teaching, and a lot of my grad school classmates, have lost everything. I had one classmate put everything in perspective: “honestly, I haven’t even thought about it. I’m too focused on whether I have an apartment to go home to.”
That being said – I did actually discover this amazing place a few months ago called “the public library” where you can take out books for free! About a week before the storm I went to said amazing place and took out Jodi Picoult’s YA novel and read it during the storm…so much better than I expected. I need to write a review!
Judith: Thanks for the warm welcome! We are indeed back though it’s been a tough few weeks for us personally and for a lot of our readers. With that said however, even without electricity, as long as e-readers were fully charged before the storm and flashlights at the ready, I’m sure a ton of YA literature was consumed in the last few weeks!
YA fiction has a wide reading audience, from the teen wanting to read a novel about “older” characters or the young adult relating to current themes, and to the “more mature adult” who enjoys a novel full of younger people. What's the common denominator that you see here?
the difficulties of growing up. YA novels allow people to experience a time
that is full of promise and hope, a time when consequences are less
dramatic than those of adulthood. Obviously this brand of sweet nostalgia
appeals to everyone! And as a rule, YA lit tends to have more happy endings
than not, which coupled with a period of one’s life that is full of exploration
and mistakes, makes for intense reads with no fear of too much bad
E: While I can’t speak for everyone, the thing I love most about YA fiction is the sense of hope and possibility it brings. These are characters at a turning point in their lives and reading their stories fills me with a sense that, no matter how old you are, no matter what is going on in your life, there are always new paths to be explored, new people to meet, and new adventures to be had. I think we can all associate with the struggles and new experiences which are thematic in YA novels.
Back in the early ‘90s I recall walking into a Barnes and Noble store and
unlike now where sadly there seems to exist more shelves lines with toys
and games than books, I was impressed by the quantity of novels written for
the YA reading audience. Why do you think this genre has emerged, or
perhaps I should ask why it wasn’t more prevalent multiple decades ago?
J: Ahh, the good old days when B&N was full of comfy chairs and cozy nooks
to read books! The way we view books seems to have evolved drastically
over the last 30 years and the availability of literature, be it good, bad, or in
between, has become par for the course. Nowadays, finding a book about a
certain subject matter or theme and geared toward a specific age group is as
easy as firing up Amazon. Information is freely and widely available and as a
result, the niche that once was YA has exploded. And again, the reason for
that is, as mentioned earlier, YA fulfills a need to relive a simpler time with
consequences that aren’t as drastic as those faced in adulthood.
Related to the last question, I was also then pretty amazed by what I thought
were dark topics for children and teens. Sure, dystopian and dark
paranormal fiction has been around for centuries, but what’s your take that
these genres seem to be gobbled up in such high volumes?
E: What I love about today’s YA novels is that they confront actual problems most teens face. What teenagers since the dawn of time have wanted is to realize that they are not alone in their struggles, that there are other people out there who can understand and sympathize with what they are going through. And that is why YA novels today are so magical. No matter what issue you might be facing in your life – rape, ostracism, homosexuality, death, depression, parental divorce, first love, second love, heartache, best friendships – there are books out there which discuss it. Today’s YA novels are proof that there are people out there who know EXACTLY what you’re feeling.
J: Good question! Dystopian and paranormal fiction take us out of our daily
lives and thrust us into a magical world. There’s the added thrill of it being
slightly taboo that certainly sucks us in as well. It’s very easy to read:
there’s generally a hero, a villain, and an overarching romance that plays
out throughout a book, and generally have happy endings. Paranormal and
dystopian fiction also allows its readers to live a life outside his or her own
while also explaining the intricacies of this more normal reality. A perfect
example of this would be Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy. In it, a teen girl
attempts to figure out the mystery of the dystopian world she lives in. Her
problems are the problems faced by all teenage girls, dystopian or
otherwise: will she fit in? Will she make friends? Does the gorgeous boy
she’s in love with love her back? Is she good enough to do the things in life
that she wants? Dystopian and paranormal YA are merely another creative
outlet for authors to talk about the hard hitting subjects.
Based upon your website’s viewer participation, do you have any predictions
of what may be the next big hit, category-wise?
J: New Adult!! This is by far the next “it” category within literature. New
Adult is literature that centers around teens or young 20 somethings newly
out of high school, in college, or starting their first jobs. The problems
become more intense, the consequences more grave, and yet there’s a
simplicity to the stories that most contemporary literature does not possess.
A good starting point for any reader new to this genre is Easy by Tammara
Webber. This book is a runaway success due to its ability to delve into what
is typically considered a taboo subject (rape or the possibility of it) and
explore the ramifications of that. Our readers seem to gravitate towards the
more complex and intense emotions and experiences of New Adult fiction.
I’ve enjoyed many YA novels for their stories of hope and courage. Perhaps
that’s why I’m presently riveted to Patricia McCormick’s NEVER FALL DOWN
that takes place during the not that-long-ago days of the Khmer Rouge in
Cambodia. I’m reading for the aha moment to see how the young character
(based upon the true Arn Chorn-Pond) rises above it all. Any suggestions for
authors I may want to read along these lines?
J: I think almost all YA novels end up giving their readers hope though some
are better at it than others! John Green is a master of novels portraying
strong and hopeful characters. By far my favorite of his is Looking For
Alaska which shows how a teen survives the loss of a dear friend. Francesca
Lia Block is another such author who has been writing YA since I was a teen!
Her stories focus on strong female leads attempting to cope with atrocities in
their lives while maintaining their dignity. The most poignant of Block’s
books is The Hanged Man, which I read as a 16 year old and last year as a
31-year-old. The emotions and passion remained very much the same even
though my outlook on life was far different.
And finally: Do each of you have this one YA novel that you will always advocate?
E: I’d have to say I have two: THE TIMBER WOLVES series by Tammy
Blackwell and JELLICOE ROAD by Melina Marchetta. The first is so well
written and the second, though at first difficult to get into, was ultimately
J: It’s a toss up between two. 1.The first YA novel that I can remember
really connecting with in the last 5 years is Sarah Dessen’s The Truth About
Forever. It is a poignant tale about a girl coming to grips with her father’s
death. Beautifully written, it focuses on redemption and personal growth,
three aspects that are a big selling point for me for a book! That was the
first YA novel (outside of Twilight) that I really pushed on Ellen. 2. Now that
said, I would be really lax in my blogging duties if I didn’t also talk about the
inspiration for our blog, I Love YA Fiction! Jennifer L Armentrout’s Obsidian,
a paranormal novel about aliens living right next door, focuses on a girl
named Katy who is uprooted from her life and relocated to WV. She runs a
blog review site and also manages to catch the eye of a sexy alien. Call it
wishful thinking but after reading that one, I actually called Ellen and told
her to sign up, we’re starting a book review blog. The rest is ILYAF history!
Viewers, let's chat: What do you enjoy in reading in YA fiction? What would you like to see more of?
Judith's Bio by Ellen:
My mom often says that if you're lucky, you find a friend so amazing it doesn't matter if you speak once a day, once a week, or even once a year. I can say in all honesty that Judith is that friend for me. We worked together at a law firm, and then she abandoned me to move to Boston, but whenever we talked or visited it was like we'd been apart for minutes. Judith is genuinely one of the most intelligent, generous, and amazing people I've ever met in my life. Heck - did you see that awesome contest she came up with to benefit the Hoboken school? And she speaks ancient Greek!
Ellen's Bio by Judith:
Ellen may be a lot of things: sarcastic, a little snarky, a tad snobby, brash and bold, but you’ll never meet a more loyal or caring friend. She is one of those people you meet and can truly say, “that girl loves life!” She travels to exotic places yearly, talking about flying like a lot of people talk about taking the subway. She loves to read and has eclectic tastes. As a teen she had dreams of becoming an olympic swimmer and a professional ice skater, practicing for hours every day until finally she ended up giving up those dreams in order to attend college in Washington, DC. If Judith had to pick just one person to be on her end of the world survival team, it would be Ellen and that in and of itself should say it all about this girl.
You can find Judith and Ellen at: