Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y if for YA and Sci-Fi

Science fiction was always a very prevalent genre in my life from a young age. My parents gave me a very early appreciate for sci-fi films (I watched The Terminator for the first time when I was eight years old), and A Wrinkle in Time was one of the first chapter books I remember reading with my mother before bedtime. Furthermore, several novels and short stories from the genre were allocated as school reading. Here’s a quick breakdown of everything assigned to me from from the ages of 11 to 16:

6th Grade
The Giver by Lois Lowry, “All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury
7th Grade
Anthem by Ayn Rand, “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut, and Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
8th Grade
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, and Animal Farm by George Orwell
9th Grade
1984 by George Orwell, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, and The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
10th Grade
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut









It’s funny now, when I glance down the list I realize how many of these books are still my favorites  to this day – as evidence by the fact that I already wrote about many of them for this blog challenge. But I must admit, I didn’t like every single one of them at first. For example, I absolutely hated Fahrenheit 451 in the eighth grade. It wasn’t until I re-read it my junior year of high school that I finally appreciated it.

It surprises me sometimes that many of these are considered appropriate “Young Adult” reading. There are some really heavy themes contained in these works. Xenophobia, the effect of totalitarianism, the psychological consequences of propaganda, dehumanization and alienation via cloning technology, censorship and the destruction of knowledge in exchange for trivia, the trading of civil liberties for government protection – just no name a few.

Sometimes I wonder if children are really capable of comprehending and synthesizing these advanced thematics. I certainly wasn’t at times. But on the other hand, I firmly believe that we shouldn’t underestimate our youth. I appreciate authors who don’t baby their young audiences and trust them with profound concepts. It's something I'll strive to do in my own YA and Middle Grade writing. 
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This post is part of the Blogging A through Z Challenge 2012. My theme is (in case you didn’t already guess) science fiction. Stay tuned for the rest of the alphabet, and if you’d like to check in on the rest of the participants, simply click here.

26 comments:

  1. Hmmm. Well. Close enough:

    http://michaelabayomi.blogspot.com/2012/04/young-adult-movie-review.html

    Lol. I never truly fell in love with science fiction books until well into my teens. Though I remember getting into movies like Star Wars, The Terminator and Jurassic Park long before that. As for the YA subcategory, I'm ashamed to say that I haven't really read much of those, except recent titles like I am Number Four and The Power of Six. :(

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    1. I have to admit, I don't read a lot of current YA. They dont expect as much of their readers as the books I've listed here. I do like the younger Middle Grade genre, but that's probably because that's what I write. But BOY did I love Jurassic Park though - books and movies. They are simply the best.

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  2. I approve of all the titles on your list. Can I add "The Time Machine" as well?

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    1. It always bothered me that we didn't read that for school. It should have been required!

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  3. When I was about 12 a teacher gave me The Diary of Anne Frank. I remember loving the book at the time, and though I knew what the book was about.. I don't think I fully grasped it. But it did open up a new world of reading for me.

    I haven't read The Giver, but it's sitting on my shelf waiting.. i've heard so many good things about it :)

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  4. The funny thing is that most of what's published for YA these days is the complete opposite of this material, even The Hunger Games.

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    1. Yes, I definitely am taking a very liberal use of the term YA here. Few of these books are found in the YA section of your local bookstore any more. But I was introduced to them as a kid, so...

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  5. I think what's wonderful about so many YA and children's books is that they can be read and understood on different levels. You grasp certain themes, etc when you're a kid, and others when you're older. I read Rebecca Stead's WHEN YOU REACH ME as an adult (and loved it!) but I wonder what I would've gotten out of it as teen, how I would've reacted to it, etc.

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  6. Your parents are awesome -- yes, you were likely too young for some of the material and yes, Terminator scared the heck out of you. But it appears they've created a voracious reader and ostensibly a great story teller, so what's a few nights of sitting up watching the black and white tile in the bathroom to make sure a robot doesn't suddenly arise from the floor? I say, rock on, parents with bad judgment... some ill-conceived decisions pay off!

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  7. Awesome list. I agree and sometimes wonder why or how books are labeled YA. Who knows? Then again look at all the classic lit we had to read as kids too.

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  8. I loved 'A wrinkle in time' too. I've read a lot of YA books as an adult and loved them, and some of the ones that I read when I was younger, I see such different things in them now - like "The Wizard of Earthsea."

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  9. This is a really great post. Unfortunately, I am too old (but not THAT old, mind you) to recall my required reading in school. I do recall that I was assigned The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in middle school, and that is probably one of the best things to ever happen to me. I have a great appreciation of YA lit, and I agree that young people definitely need the benefit of the doubt when it comes to big ideas. :-)

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  10. You know what's really sad these days? Many publishers are taking adult books, turning the characters into teenagers, and selling them as YA just because YA is a hot seller. *shiver*

    Elizabeth
    A to Z co-host

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  11. aw, you were given some awesome reading!!

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  12. I don't read young adult (didn't exist in my day) so most of my science fiction and fantasy was adult. I don't believe I had any trouble understanding it.

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  13. Hello beautiful space, a pleasure to read your letters,
    if you like the poetry I invite you to my spaces,
    Happy Sunday.
    a greeting.

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  14. I don't really have time for a long response, right now, but I do think middle school is the appropriate age to introduce heavy concepts. It's the time that the mind is ready to have its eyes opened and look at the world in a new way. If you don't cover this stuff at least before the end of high school, people are generally no longer willing to have their eyes opened to hard truths.

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    1. I would agree. I'm still so happy I read all these books at a young age. At the time, I didn't appreciate them quite as much as I do now, but reading them as a kid built the foundation. I wonder who I would be today if I hadn't been given that opportunity.

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  15. Wow - some of those are heavy reads for those kids. I loved most of those (still haven't read a couple) - but I wonder if kids would get more out of the style if they were introduced a few years later. I read The Giver every year to my grade 6s so obviously I think that one works! But 451 and Animal Farm would be more enjoyable later on in the curriculum!

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  16. I enjoyed a lot of these same books as a kid!

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  17. Yeah, let's replace the highly overrated Ender's Game with a real book by a real author - and The Time Machine gets my vote!

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  18. I tend to think the same as you do about some of the YA books and theme out there. Can the YA reading the books comprehend some of the themes out there.

    What a great post and the list that broke down by grade.

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  19. We studied Brave New World at school. I tried and failed to read 1984, and I really think I ought to try again.

    As for the themes in those books, I think kids are thinking of those deep themes anyway.

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  20. Some kids are better than others about picking up themes and subtext in a book. I tend to be literal minded and when I was a kid all that stuff went over my head. I still have to really be looking about and thinking about the larger implications about a story I'm reading or I'll miss them.

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