90% of YA fiction is rubbish: discuss!


We COULD read Twilight. Or The Hunger Games. Or Bridget Jones’ Diary. OR … we could read Pride and Prejudice?

A debate about ‘Young Adult’ fiction has been raging for days at the Edinburgh International Book Festival – we’d love to hear YOUR views on it  …

Sturgeon’s Law (a response by the author Theodore Sturgeon to criticism of the Science Fiction genre) implies that 90% of ANY genre of fiction is ‘crap’ …

Fans of YA fiction seem to have taken exception to this, however.  Interestingly, it appears to have been very difficult to pin down a definition of the genre.

Here’s my take on it – I have one main problem with YA fiction: when you’ve read as many books as I have, you tend to recognise when something is a pastiche, or formulaic (let alone just poorly-written), and too often these are polite terms for ‘rip-off’ or ‘dumbed-down’.  Here are some examples – let’s see if you recognise them:

  1. Protagonist moves to new town and new school;
  2. Protagonist gets friendly with very bright, hard-working, attractive student (love interest);
  3. Love interest’s ‘ex’ appears on the scene, as a less smart and definitely not hard-working bully;
  4. Protagonist is humiliated in initial conflict with the ‘ex’ and withdraws from the world in shame;
  5. Protagonist finds strength / wisdom through mysterious older guide (NOT a parent);
  6. Final conflict with bully results in Protagonist winning, and getting the girl

This could be I am Number Four, by Pittacus Lore (2010) … or The Karate Kid (1984) … or Footloose (also 1984 – showing my age now), or any other number of teen books or movies.

How about this one?

  1. a bright but unworldly protagonist finds themselves entering a new – and not wholly safe – world;
  2. they are attracted to another character, but is the new love-interest all they seem?
  3. another ‘love interest’ appears but there is some antipathy between them;
  4. the protagonist has to choose between two potential mates: one dangerous but attractive, the other more dependable but less attractive to begin with

Is this The Hunger Games (2008)?  Or Twilight  (2005)? Or Pride and Prejudice (1813)?

Finally, look at this:

  1. it is the near future, and the world has turned into a dystopia
  2. TV is a form of keeping the population docile
  3. Violent game shows rule, with graphic coverage of contestants competing
  4. One participant finds a way to defeat the system

Is this The Hunger Games (2008)?  Or Stephen King‘s The Long Walk (1979)? Or his other novel, The Running Man (1982)?

A new version of something is not necessarily a better version!

Do you agree, or would you like to argue the corner for YA fiction?  Get in touch!

To read the original article in the Guardian that set me thinking, click here.



English Teacher; Shakespeare Geek; Science Fiction Nerd; Adult Fan Of Lego (AFOL); Scrabble Warrior; Television Refusenik. Above all, READER ...

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2 comments on “90% of YA fiction is rubbish: discuss!
  1. Eleanor says:

    The summaries fit into all of the books (I have heard of)!

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