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The Young Adult Genre Essay

1464 words - 6 pages

Young adult literature is a consistently evolving genre that continues to push controversial boundaries and trends. The term “young adult” was first coined in the 1960s and was defined as “realistic fiction that was set in the real contemporary world and addressed problems, issues, and life circumstances of interest to young readers aged approximately twelve to eighteen” (Cart). Young adult readers of the past read publications such as Zindel’s The Pigman (1968) and Cormier’s The Chocolate War (1974), with the 1960s and 1970s being more about coming of age and the journey to adulthood, while today’s novels highlight the journey itself. With the introduction of the Internet and advances in ...view middle of the document...

The 1960s appearance of realism served as a precursor to the young adult “problem” novel, which opened the door to writers who began exploring issues of relevance to the real lives of teen readers with art and insight” (Cart). The 1970s and ‘80s are often referred to as the “golden age” of young adult literature, with authors such as Judy Blume and M E Kerr who wrote novels that spoke specifically to teenagers. However, much young adult literature prior to the 1970s has been criticized for being too focused on a problem, hence the “problem” novel, such as drug abuse or poverty, and for a lack of character development. Young adult writers of the 1990s broke free of this stigma when they expanded their previous middle school aged audience to readers even as old as twenty-five, “which freed authors to tackle more serious subjects and to introduce more complex characters and considerations of ambiguity” (Cart).
Lois Lowry’s The Giver transformed young adult literature by introducing the trend of questioning society and one’s role in his or her community. This idea helps teenagers to make connections with modern-day issues and peaks interests in reading books relevant to their own lives. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Steven Chbosky opened up the new millennium and transition to the “new adult” subgenre of young adult literature with an epistolary novel that features topics such as drug experimentation, mental health, and first sexual encounters, all of which may be relevant to modern-day high school and college students.
“Industry analyst Albert Greco states that the sale of young adult books increased by 23 percent from 1999 to 2005” and has come of age as literature that welcomes artistic innovation and risk-taking (Cart). Such risk-taking includes the arrival of new adult fiction, which has been “often billed as young adult's sexier older sister” and is usually more about the character than plot-driven (Wood). This new type of fiction is meant for both young and older adults but usually appeals to older teenagers. Unlike classical texts, modern young adult and new adult novels address modern-day issues such as sexuality, politics, and problems in society. This type of fiction appeals to the developmental needs of young adulthood, which is described by psychologists and doctors as a distinct life stage. The new life stage of “new” adulthood requires a new type of literature to meet those needs and interests of young and growing adults, which include themes of identity, familial struggles, etc. New adult novels are also often characterized as having steamier sex scenes and more intense romance plots, as depicted in novels such as the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy and several books by John Green. Social changes have also influenced the evolution of young adult fiction as reading profanity and sexual content have become more acceptable in the modern world. However controversial these new novels may be, “teens can more easily navigate the text...

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