YA has grown into the largest fiction trend of recent years, but what about Christian YA fiction? Where do they fit in?
YA fiction is the most meaningless title ever given to books.
YA (Young Adult) fiction, the biggest trend in fiction for decades, isn’t a genre, a style, or even specific to young adults. Research by consumer insights agency Nielsen showed that 80% of YA books weren’t purchased by teens, but by adults aged 25+. Adults are reading YA as much as teens are. Films based on YA fiction have also been a dominating force in box-offices. The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars, and the prime exemplar of the YA, the Twilight saga, have all generated staggering box-office numbers. Forums, blogs, tweets, articles, and discussion on YA books are countless (and in large part has driven the popularity of them).
They are the two letters on everyone’s lips: two meaningless letters that have proved to be a revolution. Not since pi have two letter been a source of so many discussions.
But, as much love as YA gets, it garners an equal amount of hate.
Simplistic, formulaic, pandering, repetitive, all-the-same, unchallenging: YA is the sign of the end. It makes readers lazy, offers easy stories that require little thought, and takes readers away from “proper books”. Especially of those adults who read them.
That is a lot of hate for any one group of books. Especially when almost any genre of fiction is just as susceptible to Sturgeon's law that 90% of something is rubbish. Bad sci-fi, bad romance, bad thrillers, bad fantasies. They abound, but attract nowhere near the same hate.
But, if these people are only seeing the bad YA novels, where are the good ones?
Meet the effusive herald of YA fiction, John Green.
He’s 39, lives in Indianapolis, Indiana, regularly attends Church, once served as a chaplain, and has made no bones about admitting his faith. He has also been in the American Library Association’s top 10 list of most banned books for 4 of the past 5 years, co-created a 10-year long vlog with his brother Hank, and has also won the Edgar Allan Poe Young Adult award for his novel Paper Towns. His books have sold millions, been made into movies, translated across the world, and address various issues without shying away or simplifying. When many mention YA, they now think of John Green. He has covered everything good and bad mentioned about YA, and has tirelessly put books into people's hands for over a decade.
Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns, An Abundance of Katherines, and The Fault in Our Stars are all rich, engaging, and moving reads that have helped propel YA to where it is today (even if his books are frequently challenged in American schools). This Oprah of YA has also worked to served as spotlight to the best of the bunch. His highlights such as the incredibly powerful The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas which addresses issues of race and class with absolute urgency.
But what about Christian YA books? Where are they all?
Blink YA Books, a part of the Christian publishing group which includes Zondervan and Thomas Nelson, have taken YA to heart, stating that:
‘The literature published by Blink is a positive reflection of what is inspiring and heartening while maintaining a tradition of imaginative and exciting storytelling that will bring readers to the edge of their seats’
Understanding how word about YA books spread, Blink have taken to finding fresh writing talent, equipping social media, and committing to creating Clean novels that relate to young readers.
They are also where you’ll find books that challenge not only what YA is, but what books on a whole can do, or be.
Case-in-point, Solo by Kwame Alexander is written entirely in verse (and I mean entirely). Solo paints the highs, lows, rhythms, and riffs of growing up under a tumultuous, and addiction-addled, rock star. It’s a unique story of family, identity and voice, and reads like nothing else out there. Solo leaps from punchy to poignant through poems, songs, texts, conversations, and monologues. All this works towards showing that pushing the envelope can be done in countless ways.
Looking for something with grit? Check out Gilt Hollow. It's the story of Willow Lamott, whose best friend becomes a murderer. A suspenseful thriller that is unafraid to blend a revenge drama with teen romance, Gilt Hollow still holds to Blink’s mission of clean fiction.
Other publishers are also wading into the world of YA. Larger-Than-Life Lara, written by Dandi Daley Mackall and published by Tyndale, doesn’t just tell a story of kindness over cruelty. It also looks at how we tell the stories of ourselves. Throughout, Lara repeatedly shows how she tells her own story. It’s literary self-consciousness for all ages, and it’s fun to read.
Christian YA covers almost every genre, tell stories with authenticity and integrity, and are so creative and wide-reaching that it’s impossible to try and paint them with a single brush-stroke.
YA may be the most meaningless title ever given to a group of books, but it also where you’ll find the books that aren’t afraid to break the rules, try new things, and approach stories with honesty.
YA isn’t a graveyard of unoriginal storytelling, where stories go to die.
YA is where Christian fiction goes to live.
To see more of what Christian YA is avaliable today, check out our Youth and Teen Fiction page.
June 21st, 2017 - Posted & Written by Aaron Lewendon