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.