Young Adult Literature

Bushman and Bushman (1993) define young adult literature as "literature written for or about young adults," which often involve themes of conflicts of interest.

According to The Young Adult Library Services of the America Library Association, a young adult is aged between 12 and 18. Psychologists regard young adults to be those within their teenage years, while Sullivan (2002) suggests readers between 10 and 20 years old encompass those ready for more mature themes. Defining a young adult can also vary on the common characteristics and psychology of this age group.

Various influencing factors have a constant impact on how the young adult thinks and behave, such as childhood experiences, family and the environment. Culture is an important factor to consider with regards to literature offered, read and produced by young adults. Current trends are also influential on young adult readers. However, the shelf life of the book may be limited to a particular generation. For example, a book referring to a popular celebrity may be lost to a future generation of readers. A contemporary book cover can make literature more accessible to the young adults. In contrast, changes in fashion, music and language reflected in literature can date it.

The position of young adult literature and its role in the high school English classroom has been the focus of many books, article and opinion papers. The value of young adult literature has become more notable among academic professionals, English and reading teachers, administrators and parents. Gallo (2001) suggests literature for young adults is seen to support growth of literary understanding, actively engaging students in analytical reading and writing.

Fiction genres for young adults include poetry, drama and plays, short stories, folk tales, contemporary realistic fiction, fantasy and science fiction. Poetry is said to have elements to make the prose accessible to young adults, such as relevance to this audience, rhythm, rhyme, figurative language and imagery. Drama is primarily intended to be performed on stage, such as Shakespeare's plays, where young adults read aloud or perform these scripts.

Relevance and accessibility to young adults is important within all fictional genres for young adults, such as short stories. Folk tales are generally regarded as those fantasy stories told to children. These can also be good vehicles to demonstrate stereotypes, archetypes, motifs and other literary devices and terminology. Contemporary realistic novels provide young adults with an entirely plausible story, from the characters, plot and setting within the real world, allowing readers to immerse themselves into a different reality. In contrast to realism, the genre of fantasy and science fiction literature offers readers escapism, fanciful ideas and settings, which can provide a unique perspective on contemporary times.

Historical fiction provides a story set in the past, recreating a time and place for the young adult readers to go to. Literature from a bygone era gives a sense of how we are all connected through time and provides a human face to history. Informational literature or non-fiction encompasses biographies and autobiographies of people, which can help broaden young adult's acquaintance with other cultures, races and ethnicities. It also includes any literature providing information. Factors to consider with informational literature are the credentials of the author, the content accuracy; current sources, balancing of ideas and theories.

Classic literature is still widely used in classrooms of young adults. This term refers to novels traditionally used in English language and literature classrooms because of the belief in their timelessness. Examples include the works of Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and Mark Twain. Fine literary novels provide students with inspiration, such as Austen's satire, poignant themes by Dickens and Twain's wit. Although these books are regarded as significant novels, it is recognized that a proportion of young adults may not have strong backgrounds in reading, or exposure to different types of reading materials to cope with such works.

The use of literature and contemporary issues can be a way for young adults to discuss issues adolescents want, or need to talk about. Themes among young adult literature cover a variety of areas, including multiculturalism, identity, society and health issues. It has also been suggested that young adult literature has the potential to help students understand their own lives.

Young Adult Literature: Selected full-text books and articles

Reflections of Change: Children's Literature since 1945 By Sandra L. Beckett Greenwood Press, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 15 "The Journey Inward: Adolescent Literature in America, 1945-1995"
Reading Rules! Motivating Teens to Read By Elizabeth Knowles; Martha Smith Libraries Unlimited, 2001
Serving Older Teens By Sheila B. Anderson Libraries Unlimited, 2004
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