‘Teen Fiction’

Over the years, ‘teen fiction’ has been changing significantly, as has the rest of teen culture. It’s a fairly new genre by book standards, and one which continues to grow at an alarming rate, which consists of (according to Goodreads) a broad selection ranging from the beautiful (The Book Thief, Markus Zusak) to the, well, less so (the Twilight series for example – I have no doubt there is something I’m missing about it but I never saw the appeal; I was more of a Morganville Vampire kind of girl). Going further back, a classic like The Catcher in the Rye is listed by NPR Books as one of the 100 best young adult books, alongside the likes of The Hunger Games. Thus it’s fair to say ‘teen fiction’ is a broad term, and the books we label as such are not only for teenagers.

I never liked the term ‘teen fiction’; I found it patronising and have consequently avoided the genre for the past three years or so, glancing over at the ‘young adult’ shelves in Waterstones as I made my way towards the regular ‘A-Z Fiction’ bit. It wasn’t so much the books I had a problem with, more the idea someone had written it assuming I wanted a certain thing, or was only capable of understanding certain concepts, because of my age. Part of this was probably due to the fact I read at a mile a minute from the ages of 9-13, and most of my books came from charity shops (for no reason other than the sheer quantity I got through, and four books for £2 is great when you’re getting through that many a week), so they were predominantly Goosebumps, Michael Morpurgo and Jacqueline Wilson, with the odd fiercely intense horror that was probably less than age appropriate and so left a lasting impression. At 13 or so, I moved on. I did all the biggies: 13 Reasons Why, The Lovely Bones, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Fault in Our Stars. Then that was it – almost overnight I decided I didn’t want to be cordoned off as a teen, and I would read whatever I bloody liked, thank you very much!

Looking back, I was probably being slightly irrational. Despite their unfortunate name, young adult books no doubt have a lot to offer. Really, you do an injustice to some of them by calling them that, because it isn’t just me with preconceived ideas of what these books are, and some people’s opinions have much more to do with underestimating the quality than mine. Teen culture (well, all culture if we are being entirely honest) is strictly pigeonholed off and dismissed quite often by people who forget what being a teenager was actually like, and assume we all want the same thing; to be angry and cry or snigger at clichéd romances. This is obviously far from the truth (we also enjoy communism and irony) and though I doubt I will be returning to the teen shelves any day soon, perhaps it is time we think of a better label for our books.