The world has seen some pretty shitty books. Whether said literature earns that characterization because of a terrible plot, lackluster characters that remain static throughout the story, awful writing, or obnoxious content is irrelevant. Terrible books are terrible books. It seems to me, however, that there has lately been a huge surge in the number of terrible Young Adult Fiction in the market. When I was younger, I absolutely adored the dramatic covers and jackets – as soon as I read the first description of the handsome hero, I knew I was guaranteed to love the story. I truly believe that I have read every series about fallen angels that was published up until the year 2012. I absolutely ate it up. I adored the drama of the story but could always rest assured that everything would work out in the end. The main characters would get back together, the villain would be vanquished, and all other loose ends would be tied up.
While I will agree that this type of literature is necessary to an extent, I think the lack of diversity, or even literature of worth period, in the Young Adult genre is appalling. When I was younger, I would go to the YA Fiction section and see books of some actual substance. Granted, I skipped over them in favor of the books with kissing, but I saw them nonetheless. A few weekends ago, when I was home for my sister’s fourteenth birthday, I took her to the library. I walked with her to the YA section and perused the shelves, just to pass the time while she picked out her books. I saw a truly overwhelming number of books about supernatural romance, and almost nothing else.
Going home later that day, I asked my sister about the popular book series she had been reading lately. I asked her if any of her friends still read Harry Potter, or Percy Jackson, or even the Hunger Games – books that I grew up with and read as a young adult and considered books of actual substance. Her answer was a resounding no – she and her friends read books like Fallen and House of Night. Going home, I googled these books and saw for myself exactly how little other than romance these books contained.
I went to the Barnes and Noble website and researched the top books for teens listed on the website, and read the full Wikipedia synopsis of each of the books. I made up criteria in my mind – if I could transport the characters out of that particular story and setting, place them in another one, and still make sense of the plot, it was not a book of worth. There were some that passed the test – a love story that was unique to the rest of the plot and setting, or a story without romance at all.
I truly don’t mean to condemn every “beach read” or YA fiction book out in the market today. I think I’m just frustrated because I see my little sister and young cousins reading these books, and not getting any sense of how a good book should read at all. I do believe, however, that school curriculum has been moving towards combatting this. And there are still good books out there. So maybe I should stop complaining and look on the bright side – reading has merit in itself, and I’m sure there are young people like me who see this issue and will go out into the world and write the kinds of books that will be impactful and teach a lesson – beyond just how to get and keep a vampire boyfriend.
Here’s the Barnes and Noble list of top teen books: