I don’t only write YA fiction – I read it. This has very little to do with remaining abreast of the market so much as indulging in a real and rewarding pleasure. YA literature is prioritised over the many books stacked on my bedside table (and beneath the bed and on the floor, subscribing optimistically as I do to an osmotic theory of literature…).
So what is it that keeps me (and so many other adult readers) hooked? Let me say it all in a rush: good YA literature can’t afford to be boring. There can be no indulgent digressions and meanderings on the author’s part. The best of it works on the assumption that the characters will undergo major growth and this will largely be positive growth, an expansion rather than contraction, no matter how dire the circumstances. It’s an existential affirmation that we’re all on a journey, transformation is inevitable, and it could and should be an expansive process. I love aligning with the pure ideals of an adolescent coming into adulthood, before they’re crushed by economic and social machinery, and the understanding and acceptance that they will be preoccupied with their own feelings.
I’m also attracted to each journey having a profound sense of personal meaning and the individual rites of passage that are a marker of the best YA fiction. And lastly, YA fiction is the arena of that wonderful twilit world where veils thin: the physical, psychological and imaginal borderlands of the child cusping into adulthood – the human equivalent of sunrise or sunset, the ocean meeting earth – where the atmosphere is rarefied and grand, not grubby with adult disappointment, a place where magic can still be real.
Melaina Faranda will be running her one day YA workshop Catch a Rising Star on Sunday 6 April.