Is YA Fiction too Dark?

(Picture courtesy of Bottom of the Glass.)

This rant article was prompted by Emma Waverman over at Embrace the Chaos writing an article about how she finds YA fiction too dark.  This would be okay as it is her own opinion, but what irks me is that she has condemned the YA genre without having read much of said genre.  Here are some of my thoughts on the matter:

Ms. Waverman has absolutely every right as a parent to be concerned about what her twelve-year-old son is reading.  She has said that she thinks the YA genre is generally dark (particularly since it has books like The Hunger Games) without having read any YA books, aside from a little bit of Harry Potter—at least that she mentions.  My problem is that she seems to dismiss the whole genre out of hand without even truly sampling it.  She proclaims she is an avid reader and a ‘book snob’, but why has she not read these books along with her son if she is so concerned?  Despite what people think, YA fiction is not all that different from adult fiction, which brings me to my next point.

The only real difference between YA and adult fiction is the target audience.  In my experience, the quality of writing, characters and plot are not all that different.  You can usually find less (or at least less graphic) sex in YA fiction, which is partly why I like it.  YA fiction is generally more fast-paced as well, but those are minor differences in the scheme of things.

Not all YA fiction is dark, contrary to popular belief.  With all due respect to Ms. Waverman, if she would only look she would find many ‘happy’ books for her son.  Yet because she doesn’t read YA, she doesn’t know this and only looks at the current dystopian trend in the genre.  As my mother tells me, “Expand your horizons.”  Search engines are great for producing book titles of non-dystopian novels; we have the internet for a reason.  I would recommend anything by Gordon Korman as a starting point.

As for why YA fiction is dark, I have a very simple explanation: we humans love to see good triumph over evil.  If things are really horrible in a dystopian novel, the main character generally effects a change for the better.  What’s so bad about that?  The Hunger Games trilogy is dark, but things get so much better for Panem in the end.  The night is darkest just before the dawn and dark dystopias that change for the better give teens hope that there is some good in this world.

When teens read a lot, they generally watch the news as well and see all of the ‘dark’ things that happen in our world.  These ‘dark’ events don’t always turn out well, so fiction is a way of escape.  And why not?  The purpose of fiction is to entertain people and allow them to escape from their mundane lives into fantastic worlds with larger-than-life characters.  Ms. Waverman needs to understand this and accept that the world is not all rainbows and butterflies, so fiction will reflect this fact.  Yes, even Young Adult fiction.

If you’ve managed to read this far, allow me to summarize this entire rant article:

Don’t judge a genre by its trends.


  1. sammyhoffman

    I hate it when people judge something they don’t read. While not all YA fiction is ok for a 12 year old to read, there’s plenty of it out there that is. And as to the darkness, some of it is probably just ‘shock-value’. There are so many books in the YA fiction genre, especially Paranormal Romance, that you need to be incredibly different and dark to stand out, like The Hunger Games.

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