Young Adult & Middle Grade – Escapism and World Building Champions

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Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I have a deep love for young adult and middle grade books. I’ve read so many of them, in fact, that I like to think of myself the self-proclaimed expert at work. I love these stories about younger people for one, very important reason – I love to read to escape. There is nothing in the world that I love more than finding a story with a world that I can be completely consumed by. In my personal experience, I have found no one that accomplishes that goal better than teen and middle grade authors.

Now I’m sure that I will get some flack for this – mutterings of “well you’ve obviously never read the works of *insert prominent adult author here*” and you could be right – I haven’t. To be fair, I don’t read a lot in the sci-fi/fantasy section, where world building is so important. Not in adult fiction anyway – but I love spending time in the fantasy worlds of young adult authors.

From Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles – where I get to relive all of my favourite fairy tales in a very different and non-traditional way, to Marie Lu’s near future sci-fi in WarCross, I have gotten to take a glimpse into genres that once intimidated the crap out of me. The characters that frequent these YA worlds tend to not take themselves too seriously, and if they do, they’re brought down a peg or two pretty quickly. These authors have created worlds that I am ecstatic to spend some time in. A place for me to go when I don’t want to worry that I have to go to work tomorrow or that there is a mountain of laundry waiting for me. These worlds are a refuge from every day monotony – and I really don’t personally care that they came out of the teen section (or the middle grade section for that matter).

There is something about writing for young adults and children that keeps authors from taking their worlds too seriously – although there are obvious exceptions, this is a statement that I have found to be true in the works that I’ve read. When you’re writing for a younger audience, nothing is off limits. No one is going to judge you for creating something illogical or unrealistic – and those things are sometimes what makes reading these books so fun. A child’s imagination is an amazing thing, and as an author that writes for children, you get to expand on that without fear of repercussions.

There was a Slate article a few years ago that really made me want to be an advocate for adults that read fiction marketed toward a younger crowd. The article looked down upon them, saying that they should “be ashamed of themselves” and that it should be a requirement to “pick up something with substance”. I’m not sure that I have ever been so angry in my entire life. How DARE they? I don’t care if your idea of a great Sunday night read is The Little Blue Truck or if you are on your 90th re-read of Fifty Shades of Grey, if you’re reading, and you’re enjoying yourself then the opinion of some ignorant, uninformed, snob (from a website that I hadn’t previously heard of) doesn’t matter in the slightest.

I was going to post the link to the article, but there is already enough stupid in the world and you guys don’t need to even waste your time reading it. I’ve read YOUNG ADULT FICTION portraying characters with a higher IQ than the author of that article. So there’s that.

4 thoughts on “Young Adult & Middle Grade – Escapism and World Building Champions

  1. As someone that (exclusively) reads fantasy books with a focus on
    world-building, there’s something almost indescribable about knowing that whichever story you’re reading is just a part of something more, knowing that your characters aren’t the ‘reason’ that you’re there, but that you’re just following their story in a world that’s almost living and breathing on it’s own.

    I think this is a big reason why Tolkien’s works are still synonymous with the word ‘Fantasy’, and more than that, I think a lot of people would be hard pressed to name another fantasy/sword and sorcery world that didn’t at least pay homage to his works.

    We all know that Bilbo went on a quest to slay a dragon, and that Frodo went on a quest to destroy the one ring, but those events (though heroic as they may be) were only a small fraction of the things that happened in middle earth; Shelob (the spider from the 3rd movie) is an offspring of Ungoliant, a giant primordial being that took the shape of a great Spider, and helped Melkor to usher in the age of darkness. Gandalf wasn’t just a wizard, he was a Maiar, an angelic like being that sacrificed his position with Eru (the creator of the Tolkien universe, think ‘God’) to help keep middle earth in balance. That’s why Gandalf never uses his powers for more than simple feats (unlocking doors, creating light, starting fire, etc.), because he wasn’t sent to Middle Earth to guard it or make sure that good prevails, he’s sent there to ‘keep balance’ as it were – that’s why he is ‘sent back until his task is complete’ when being defeated by the Balrog of Moria.

    There’s so much substance in Middle Earth that the stories you read through are only a fraction of what there is to know. I love that, even after finishing LoTR, you’ve barely scratched the surface of Tolkiens world, and you could spend years researching and learning new things.

    Of course, Tolkien and Middle Earth aren’t the only places that world-building like this can be found; Dune, A Song of Ice and Fire, Wheel of Time, even Harry Potter to an extent all have a good amount of world-building throughout them, and I think that world-building is what keeps me coming back to epic fantasies like this. I love the Tolkien universe, and being able to spend years in it, always learning new things, is a feeling I’ve not found anywhere other than in Epic Fantasy’s.

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    • This is all fantastic information! Thank you so much for your comment. I, personally, have a hard time with epic fantasy and sci-fi for the simple reason that a lot of the time the pacing is a little slow for me. I’m sure there are series and stand alones out there that would grab my attention and have me hooked until the very last page – but I haven’t yet found them. I’m very happy that you love them so much though, so much of reading is for escape and everyone is different.

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  2. Hi Katie
    Aunt Karen here, just wanted you to know that I got your Mom to give me your address for your blog. I will give Brandon your blog address,he is an avid reader as well.
    Love you

    Like

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