An author, blogger and editor with Master’s in Comparative Literature – Aniesha Brahma is here to stay and tap the pulse of young adults with her books. She has an interesting perspective about YA fiction in general and in India.
To be completely honest, I do not write YA fiction. What I write is NA (New Adult) fiction and I simply call it YA because, as author Laxmi Hariharan puts it:
‘I call my books YA because my characters are in their late teens, they are still coming of age and dealing with all the related confusions and there is no gratuitous sex though there is a lot of dealing with mixed feelings and hormones going awry.’ – Laxmi Hariharan
My characters are mostly twenty-some things though. Look at Jasmine or Akriti, they were both between the ages of 22 and 23. Among my characters, only Rhea was 16 years old and one can tag The Guitar Girl as a YA novel.
I still identify myself as a YA author because when I started reading voraciously, I realized it’s always the kids a little lost in life who look towards books as guidelines. I have gone hoarse trying to explain to people that YA fiction does not only mean the boy meets girl and girl meets boy, and their magical summer time together. YA fiction is so much more.
Psychologists have said that our formative years go a long way in shaping who we become later on life. And I found a lot of books in the YA section that talk about bullying, suicide, depression coming out of the closet, keeping secrets and the price sometimes our younger versions pay because they did not know how to handle the situation better.
I remember reading Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira, and it takes one through the story of Laurel and her sister, May and the many misadventures they shared together. I remember fresh, hot tears pouring down my cheeks when the climax of the story hit me squarely in the stomach.
I remember devouring the Princess Diaries series, and I practically could see the change from Mia Thermopolis, the insecure 13-year-old who was scared of her own shadow to the young, confident Princess Amelia, the future heir of Genova. It was one of the best things I could have read as a writer, because I could see with every book, Mia’s writing changed and developed a character of its own. I have come across light reads in the YA section too. But I really loved the book, The Duff. It was the story of Bianca and her unconventional methods to escape pain that her parents shambling marriage inflicted on her.
Do you notice that none of the fiction writers for YA I mentioned are Indian? Because I have not read too many YA novels by Indian writers. In India, I guess writers like to write about slightly older characters, about star-crossed lovers and romances that have been written in the sky.
Therefore, no one likes moral stories being forced down their throats. They read to escape life and therefore, a sugary sweet romantic story is often what they crave.
No one likes to be reminded of reality. That is why there was a section of people, who hated the ending of When Our Worlds Collide. Because to them, fiction cannot end at the note I ended on. Oh well, you cannot have everything in life, I suppose.
In India, I think a lot of writers are now experimenting with the YA/NA genre. Who knows, maybe a few years down the line we might discover our very own John Green. (Yes, undoubtedly – Mr. Green is the man who has inspired me the most to write in YA/NA genres, but with storylines that are more real.)
Young Adult fiction should not be brushed aside as something little children read, in my opinion. This genre needs to be taken more seriously.
Because, let’s face it – it is the youth who love looking for answers in Google searches and what can be better than that search hitting a book that might deal with whatever hell they are going through?