There is a great rant about the bad press young adult books have been getting lately at http://sarahockler.com/2008/12/19/ya-books-boring-uncomplicated-preachy-the-new-yorker-thinks-so/. I agree with her wholeheartedly. There are quite a few YA books out there that are very well written and complex. And honestly, even the ones that do have simpler plots and straightforward styles have there place. Let’s not forget they are written for young people who may not have a taste for fine literature yet. I was drawn into reading by some simple good vs. evil type stories as a kid (The Dark is Rising, for example) then moved on to more complex works as I got older. And just because the morals are simple and uncomplicated doesn’t mean the stories themselves are. A Wizard of Earthsea , The Chronicles of Narnia, Out of the Silent Planet – all have your basic theme of the ongoing battle between good and evil but are very good, well written, and layered stories if you bother to really pay attention to them. And, to me at least, they were a good lead in to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, The Left Hand of Darkness, Stranger In A Strange Land, etc, leading eventually to my current (and pretty vast) reading list. They helped me learn to really enjoy books, to see the characters as friends, and to immerse myself in their world.
I admit I am not up on today’s young adult scene, literary or otherwise, with the exception of the Harry Potter and Eragon series. But to dismiss the genre as a whole seems foolish. And some of the books Ms Ockler cites in her rant as examples of good YA literature do sound very interesting. I will be adding several of them to my reading list. The Hunger Games in particular sounds right up my alley and will probably be top of the list.