ya fiction =
Is that why I find Will from Cassandra Clare's Infernal Devices series so intriguing? Dark and brooding Will is my favorite kind of tortured soul...
I recently read about a study finding that social skills, specifically the ability
to feel empathy, are boosted by reading literary fiction (read the NPR story here). What is “literary fiction” you ask? Well, the authors of the study found the key distinction is character- versus plot-driven stories: literary fiction is less plot-centric and relies on characters who are less stereotyped, requiring the reader to infer emotions and motivations. You’re thinking, okay Dostoyevsky right? But what about Harry Potter?
After all, YA fiction, all about coming-of-age, is by definition character-driven. The characters themselves are navigating the mystery of their emotions (ever heard of teen angst?) and how the world they know affects their personal choices. Maybe that’s why we’re always so intrigued by those bad boys in YA love triangles—there’s so much to unpack about who they are! (Or maybe it helps that they’re always smooth-talking and swoonworthy!)
Now, there’s plenty of fun and fluff in YA, which I love for its offer of pure escapism from the real world of politics and poverty. There’s also a lot to learn from the diverse Percy Jacksons or Ron Weasleys who are all just trying to figure themselves out—while they save the world, obviously. So next time you pick up a YA fiction, you might watch out for a little kick of empathy on the side!
the power of a series ...
Don’t we all love how dark Harry Potter’s world gets by the
end of the story? Remember when he was just a cute, sweet
kid so excited to get an owl and a wand? That’s what a series does—it’s
the perfect vehicle for character growth.
The series gives the characters the space to grow emotionally, and then
the plot really begins. The story gets darker as the characters get deeper.
We get to question right along with our teen-super-wizard where human
nature will lead. We also get to see what the heck made Voldemort so
bent on world domination and Snape so good and so wicked at the same
All these flawed human beings have their own story and understanding each of them, through the unraveling of the series, helps us understand everyone a little better.
supernatural human nature?
You can learn about human emotion from a book about the undead, right? If Mary Shelley can do it, why not Richelle Mead?
I thought the characters were the strength of Vampire Academy. I mean, after all, a girl protecting her vamp best friend while questioning her own slut issues really needs your understanding. And her best friend’s depression issues require some serious pause on the reader’s part—here Mead has vividly spotlighted the darkest thoughts in eerie realism.
Alanna is the classic coming-of-age story,
raising those classic questions of nature versus nurture.
How do twins Alanna and Thom end up with
such different personalities?
Is it just personality (poor Thom never stood a chance)? Or is it that Alanna had to fight for what she wanted and everything always came so easily to her brother? I love that it is George, who was raised and roams with the thieves, whose mother teaches Alanna to be a noblewoman while Alanna is hiding her identity from court. Is this why George’s thievery is always so…is respectable the right word? This series definitely shows us that there are no easy answers to these questions.
Okay, so clearly the fantasy London in Bray’s works doesn’t exactly comport with reality, but Bray has taken care to align what she can. I love that her acknowledgements include a shoutout to the librarians who stood standby to her detailed fact-checking. I appreciate my fantasy being put in proper historical context!