From Gangs to Wizards: What YA Fiction teaches Us

Like everything else, literature is also subject to the human tendency of compartmentalising and segregating things. YA Fiction (Young Adult Fiction) is currently one of the most popular genres with a wide and synergetic market. However, people mistakenly reduce it to just “children’s” fiction- an escape from reality and nothing more. We, at Daastan, hope to present another side of the story, through which YA Fiction is presented at par with “Classic” Literature. Of course, it does not fit the canon but it does break away to form something even more dynamic for children, young adults, adults and academics alike.

Who is YA Fiction Really For?

The short answer is present right there: Young Adults.

If only it was that simple! Like all literature, YA Fiction can be for anyone who can take something from it. Just like dusty old academics don’t have monopoly over Classic Literature, Young Adults don’t have monopoly over YA. It does cater to them, but why should that mean a clear segregation?

It comes as a result of the idea that YA Fiction simply isn’t serious enough. Ideas of revolution, decay, romance aren’t dealt with “maturely” enough to appeal to the older audience. Here is where we go wrong. In its’ simplistic tone and childlike fantasy, YA fiction has the ability to focus on things with the intensity that perhaps adult fiction might lack.

However, to be able to decode those ideas the readers need to equip themselves with certain literary tools. Being able to identify allegories, allusions, metaphors and parodies will allow the readers to interpret layers of meaning. Which begs the question: Is YA Fiction multifaceted? And the answer is yes! Let’s illustrate this further.

YA Fiction, Racism and Police Brutality

Yes you read that right- YA Fiction does have the capacity to convey poignant commentaries on socially relevant things such as modern day depictions of racism and police brutality.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas would be our recommendation for all those interested. It explores the modern day struggles of young African American girl as she learns to recognise and cope with institutional racism. It is a young adult fiction which focuses on the coming of age in a highly politicised environment.

Thomas explores the construction of “black criminality” in America where the identities of being “black” and “criminal” become interchangeable.

Moreover, the novel constantly alludes to Black Lives Matter, a movement catalysed by widespread incidents of police brutality. It is a well constructed novel that remains relevant to the present day discourse regarding racism, the justice system and police brutality.

The State, Truth, Justice and…Wizards?

YA Fiction is able to critically analyze a lot of our reality through the lens of magic.

The unreal creates a space for criticism otherwise not afforded to other genres.

That is the case with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K Rowling as well. Yes, there is more to the novel aside from flying magical animals and a magical school.

The novel astutely differentiates between the ideas of Justice and the Law– and how the two are not interchangeable. Sirius Black’s treatment highlights this point. Furthermore, it also sheds light on the modern day prison system and its relationship with justice. In fact, these ideas are very relevant to Foucault’s power/knowledge nexus. This just comes to show that YA Fiction deserves a space in academia as well- because it is quite relevant!

We hope that this motivates you to pick up that YA novel you left for some light reading, and that you are able to now pinpoint some critical debates and issues within the world of magic and teenage angst!

For more literary discussions and recommendations, do keep a look out for new blogs (while catching up on the old ones!)

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