In Defense of YA

Hello, readers! For my time at Beaufort, I have chosen the nom-de-plume of J.K. Beauling because: A. Harry Potter shaped me as a writer and a dreamer, and B. most of the good pseudonyms were already taken. I am a Texas-native, a writing, literature, and publishing major at Emerson College, a pretty standard millennial, and now, a Beaufort Books intern and budding New Yorker.

When asked about my favorite genre of books, I used to panic and scramble to come up with the most impressive answer I could without sounding too disingenuous (I’ve learned that people usually know you’re lying when you claim Ernest Hemingway is your favorite author). Lately, however, I’ve been answering more simply and honestly with: young adult. While I wouldn’t go as far as saying that I prefer YA over every other genre, it’s the one I frequently find myself passionately defending, and the genre I hope to work with throughout my career in the publishing industry.

I’ve found that embracing YA, especially as an adult, is usually frowned upon. It’s one of those things that you’re allowed to enjoy as long as you do it under the guise of a guilty pleasure, like double cheeseburgers or Katy Perry songs. By trivializing YA literature, we are belittling our youth and implying that art that is designed for teenagers is inherently inferior.

As an adult, or as someone in the “in-between” phase, I’ve learned how to see past adversity. I’m aware of my strengths and weaknesses, and I have a general idea of what I’m doing with my life (don’t quote me on that, though). As a teenager, however, feelings of perpetual sadness and discomfort in my own skin were loud disruptions to my previously blissful childhood. I walked my high school’s hallways feeling like an anomaly among my contemporaries, although I later learned that they felt just as confused as I did. The complexities that we develop in our teenage years are the most difficult to comprehend, and stories about these universal struggles can serve as survival guides as we develop our own coping mechanisms.

Harry Potter helped refine my imagination, and taught me the art of escapism through literature. The Hunger Games gave me Katniss, who continues to inspire me as a strong female role model (it should also be noted that YA has more female protagonists than any other genre—how much longer are we going to keep minimizing teenage girls and glorifying dead white male authors?). The Perks of Being a Wallflower helped me understand depression, and John Green’s novels gave a sense of purpose within the monotony of my suburban teenage years.

As I get older and stumble into my 20s, I feel a growing sense of nostalgia upon reading YA novels. They don’t feel quite as familiar as they did just a few years ago, but they remind me of the days when time seemed endless. So, while I acknowledge that reading Hemingway is important, I encourage all readers to go ahead and indulge in vampire romance fiction, or any other book that has been deemed lesser by default of their intended audience. Literature can be consumed for intellectual growth, but it can also be a companion amidst hardship. Growing up is hard and uncomfortable, and books can help make the journey a little less lonely.

Until next time,

J.K. Beauling

Me at 15 during my first trip to New York. This outfit was planned weeks in advance, and I begged my mom to take pictures of me all day.

This is a shared blog post for Spencer Hill Press and Beaufort Books.