my problem with YA

A few years ago, I pitched a book to an New York agency. It was a story about the first years after college and navigating the trials of early adulthood.

“This will be great for the Young Adult market,” the agents said.

I balked. “Isn’t the whole point of YA that it’s about adolescence? This is a story about come out of adolescence. It’s about how to act like an adult when everyone treats you like a child.”

The agents persisted, I refused. While the project certainly wasn’t viable in the end, it didn’t help that we couldn’t get on the same page about where this story would succeed in the marketplace.

To my mind, the explosion of Young Adult literature in the last ten years is a symptom of our larger cultures attempt to infantilize everyone below the age of thirty. Corporations like Disney spoon feed us the same movies from our childhoods, repackaged to look new. Sometimes it’s a live action remake of an animated “classic,” and sometimes it’s a new Star Wars move or TV show. Either way, companies prod our nostalgia nad longing for the return of innocence. They market to us as though we’re children. As a result, we’re more docile consumers who are happy to be told how to behave and what we want.

A more tangible example of the consequences? A few years after college, I went to visit a friend for the weekend. I awoke on Saturday morning to find him in his Pokemon pajamas, sitting in front of the TV in his living room, shoveling Capt’n Crunch into his mouth and watching cartoons. He was twenty-four years old.

If you treat people like they’re children, eventually they’ll begin to behave that way.

I’d like to be treated like the adult I am.

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