Young adult fiction applicable to college students, too

As college students, we live on the edge of an age range that seeks to define young adult fiction, although the numbers that constitute that range are often blurred. Preteens to middle-aged adults seem to find the stories equally fascinating and I’d have to agree.

Our generation has seen firsthand the explosion of young adult literature, starting with the publishing of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” in 1997 followed by “Twilight,” “The Hunger Games” and most recently, the “Divergent series” in the 2000s. And while many people credit the popularity of young adult fiction to exaggeration by media and hype, the numbers seem to speak differently. Children and young adult book sales were up 22.4 percent in 2014 from the previous year, 
according to the Association of American Publishers.

With this increase, we see that either more children and young adults are reading, or more adults are modifying their preferences to include young adult books. Whichever is the answer, the recent rise of book sales combined with box office success at the movies shows just how impactful young adult fiction is on current culture. “Insurgent,” for example, debuted box office sales at $54 million, according to Forbes magazine.

Although, the media associated with these books pales in comparison to the exciting changes YA is seeing in terms of plot and storyline. For example, stories based in a post-apocalyptic or dystopian future are gaining attention, an exploration of a theme that is probably as old as stories themselves. Improvements in YA also mean improvements in the literature younger generations are reading, affecting positive change that will follow them through high school, their college years and their career.

College students are sometimes exposed to a stigma associated with young adult novels. Instead of hiding “Twilight” inside their Kindles, some students believe we have moved beyond YA to bigger, more difficult books that include accounts of political leaders and history and philosophy. And while the detail of Winston Churchill’s life is very interesting, I find myself growing as a proponent of young adult fiction as a necessary literary resource, a helpful guide to life and an escape that other works don’t have the capacity to provide.

Just as “Twilight” comforted and allowed me to grow in imagination and thought in my middle school years, similar stories now benefit me in my college years. YA is able to answer questions of life and humanity in a fantastical and mysterious way without fear of having to contend with actual reality. As an “adult” novel may propose and attempt to answer the question of how to deal with grief, a YA novel will answer the very same question in a way that relates to a younger audience.

The words may be slightly easier to read and the events targeted to a younger audience, but young adult fiction is a genre for the ages. College students, sometimes caught in their own special version of dystopia and confusion and anxiety for the future, would especially benefit from 
these works.

Mary Catherine Connors is a sophomore majoring in economics and mathematics. Her column 
runs weekly.

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