During my high school experience, I never once read a young adult novel in the classroom. Back then, I believe that young adult novels were just blooming in the garden of literature, much like flowers spreading their veins into the foundation of reading. Before eighth grade when StephenieMeyer’s Twilight was published, I had never heard of a teen or young adult book. Maybe that was due to my ignorance,considering I disliked reading until I was thirteen, or maybe it was simply because the genre was not promoted enough. I used to believe that you either read biographies or classics. Nowadays, young adult literature is being implemented into curriculum across the board—middle schools, high schools, and even colleges.
During my time at Slippery Rock University, I took many literature classes, my favorite amongst them all was Young Adult Lit with Dr. Oldakowski. We read about how important it is to have this genre in our schools alongside carefully selected young adult novels spanning various topics, themes, and lengths. It seems that now young adult lit is flourishing even in the media. Some of the most popular movies of the twenty-first century were first young adult books.
Don’t get me wrong, classical and nonfiction literature are vital in the curriculum as well, and I am proud of the progress some school districts are making. Young adult literature can be a great way to introduce a theme before a classic or an older piece of writing is taught in the unit. A lot of districts are putting forth the effort to teach novels like The Hunger Games, Divergent, and The Maze Runner. Although dystopian literature is my favorite genre, it isn’t the only type of young adult literature that is important to read. The genre also touches on romance, sickness, bullying, and even suicide. Many of these topics arecrucial for the youth of our world to be exposed to. I have already written an article explaining why fiction in general is important to include in today’s curriculum, so I won’t delve into that any more.
I first-handedly listened to two popular young adult authors speak at this year’s PCTELA conference—Stephen Chbosky, author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Jay Asher, author of Thirteen Reasons Why. These authors relayed to the audience several emotional experiences they had with their readers and many letters they received from kids on the verge of suicide up until they read their novels. It verifies this simple fact: young adult literature is relatable and vitally important to a large portion of today’s teenagers. As a young adult novelist and high school educator myself, I understand who my audience is and some of the important aspects that they need to be exposed to. All in all, I know young adult literature has touched my life in a multitude of beneficial ways, and I believe that more students will be interested and engaged in reading if they have stories that they can relate to and understand.