Lately, there's been a lot of talk from various people in my life about how young adult (YA) books are so much easier to read than adult novels. My husband even recently made fun of me for reading so many YA books, implying that just because the books were marketed to children/teenagers/young adults they weren't of the same literary caliber.
This really pisses me off.
The simple fact of the matter is, the person writing the book has no say over whether or not their book will be marketed as a YA novel. A well-known example is Stephenie Meyer: she didn't write Twilight with YAs as her intended audience, but when her agent or publisher or whoever read the book, they saw the high school setting and teenage main character and said, "Obviously, this is YA." Meyer was smart enough to say, "Fine, sure, whatever, I'm ready for my millions," and now she is a world-famous author.
What that means is that authors aren't always writing with the intention of "dumbing down" their vocabulary for teens or making an easy-to-follow plot so that YAs will be able to keep up (the idea that anyone thinks that either of those things needs to be done in the first place is upsetting). Writers just write. There are some writers (myself included) who write something with an intended audience, but even they/I don't know for certain that the publisher will agree. Therefore, it's ridiculous to assume that YA books are any easier to read or less of a literary challenge simply because they are marketed toward a younger audience.
Don't believe me? Here's a list of some YA and children's literature which includes complex vocabulary, themes, and/or plot points. If you think YA books are simple, you'll soon see that you are seriously mistaken:
Tim Burton has done with this!)
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak A moving story about World War II, this book will make you laugh and cry all at once. Zusak includes illustrations inside the pages, which are absolutely heartbreaking. In Zusak's native Australia, the book is marketed to adults, but here in the U.S. you can find it on the YA shelves. The motifs of death, guilt, friendship, and humanity play heavily, and the imagery is gorgeous. This is a shining example of a YA book that has many complex layers; I can't believe someone would write it off simply because of its location in the bookstore/library.
Trust me, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are a TON of YA books which prove that YA doesn't equate to an easy read. What's your favorite example of a YA novel that packs a literary punch?