Tag Archives: YA

Why not YA?

In recent months our book club has read two young adult novels, Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan, and Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez. In our discussions we touched on the fact that these books seem too adult and sophisticated for younger readers. Echo, in part, deals with the spread of Nazism in Germany and the Japanese internment camps in the United States. Out of Darkness is about racial discrimination at its worst. It seemed to our group, especially in regards to the Perez story, that the only prerequisite for a book to be categorized as YA is that it be about teenagers with teenaged characters.

Last week I read the excellent Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok. This is a lovely coming-of-age story of a young Chinese immigrant, Kim, who struggles to adapt to her new life in Brooklyn. At the start of the novel, she is a child, but throughout most of the book she is a teenager. I couldn’t help thinking, What a good read this would be for young adults. Yet, the book was classified as adult fiction at my local library. Such a shame. Kim’s experiences with bullying, peer pressure, teenaged cliques, and everyday school challenges would easily appeal to teen readers. As an adult reader, I loved the story and appreciated the intimate look at the struggles of a young immigrant who is attempting to assimilate into American society.

I do realize that young adults who truly love to read will find books in the adult section of the public library that appeal to them. I certainly did when I was a kid. But certain gems like Girl in Translation should be made more readily available, easier to find for all YA readers.



I enjoy a good YA novel now and then. These books are usually easy reading with fast-paced stories. But I was somewhat surprised with Out of Darkness, a YA novel by Ashley Hope Perez. The writing is sophisticated, the pace–at least initially-is slow, and the story is tragic, dealing with serious issues of racism and child abuse. It seems to me the only feature that qualifies it as a young adult story is the age of the protagonist. She is a teenager, and so is her love interest. Based on this book, I have to assume that young adult readers are more sophisticated than during my teen years. Look at Suzanne Collins’s popular series, The Hunger Games, with its dark, dystopian setting. YA books are often read by adults as well. In the past couple of years I have read Echo, by Pam Munoz Ryan, It’s Not About the Accent by Barbara Caridad Ferrer, Survive the Night by Danielle Vega, and Honey Blonde Chica by Michele Serros. Most of these books deal with heavy topics (for example, Japanese internment during WWII, date rape). Out of Darkness is a shockingly stark look at racism during a particular period of US history. Does that mean it’s too harsh for a young adult reader? Not in my opinion. Indeed, it is an eye opener.