YA Criticism Needs An Update

In the world at large, YA fiction is treated as something of a punchline. It's easy to make fun of. All those dystopian books read exactly the same, with a society divided into arbitrary categories, a teenage girl desperately trying to choose between two guys, and a bunch of kids taking down the government. And if it's not a dystopian, it'll be one of those trashy paranormal vampire thingies -- also with a love triangle, of course, and a whole boatload of angst. What's not to hate?

Man, I just hate all that vampire dystopian YA
To be honest, I cringe whenever I see criticism along those lines nowadays, because it tells me that the person spouting it off hasn't read any YA published since 2012. Yes, there were a heck of a lot of vampire novels in the mid-2000s, and there was a whole mountain of dystopias between 2010 and 2014 or so ... but those genres are now dead, dead, dead (well, I've seen vampires starting to make a comeback, but it's a completely new breed compared to the Twilight ripoffs of the aughts).

Thanks to the huge initial surge of YA books, publishers are being a lot more selective about which YA titles they take on nowadays. As a result, the YA category today is higher-quality and more diverse than ever before. And yes, there are still trends that come and go, but nothing like the dystopian explosion way back when. Given how broad the category is now, I'd be very surprised if some other trend blew up the way dystopian did -- especially not to the point where it comes to characterize the entirety of YA to many people.

What all this means is that, if you want to understand YA -- for example, if you're writing it -- for the love of celery, PLEASE read books published in the past 2-3 years! Not only will it expose you to a ton of awesome books, but it will give you an accurate picture of what the category is actually like.

Hunger Games knockoffs don't cut it anymore. YA in 2020 is a serious, high-quality, boundary-pushing beast, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

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