Are Young Adult Books More Progressive?

Just some random musings on a positive and surprising trend I’ve noticed recently. There’s been much turmoil in recent years over diversity in literature. It’s misunderstood that the conflict comes from people thinking that every young adult book should be inclusive of every group, ever, and that’s not the case. The argument comes mostly from authors trying to portray a group, but not doing it accurately or with sensitivity to their issues.

Even if that is true in some cases, the fact that there is such a massive variety of diverse books in young adult that you can compare and contrast them easily is uplifting. For example, YA books with LGBT+ protagonists, that are neither pandering nor exploitative, are quite easy to find with a few searches. Novels for adults in the same vein… a wee bit trickier. And there’s not, stylistically speaking, that rigid of a difference between adult and young adult books. One could argue that the slowness to change is because of the more restrictive nature of the publishing industry when it comes to adult fiction.
You’d think it’d be more open, being a medium that revolves around varying ideas, but it definitely isn’t. Like the film industry, anything transgressive, progressive or fresh is often subject to stifling and censorship before it makes its way to the public eye. And that’s a shame, because as has shown with YA books, plenty of people want to read these books. There has been an upswing of variety in adult fiction in the past few years, but it’s largely come from small publishers and independent authors breaking into the mainstream. Maybe I’ve just not been looking hard enough?

There is such a thing as pandering to diversity, or what an author thinks diversity means, in YA fiction. That does exist, just as books that think a “strong” character equals a Mary Sue who can do no wrong. Not every book’s going to be perfect in its design. But I see honest, genuine attempts more often than not, and it’s really appreciated. It is just fiction, but for a young bookworm who felt alone and vulnerable, seeing a sympathetic character that is like themselves can mean a lot.

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