A Made-Up Place: New Zealand in Young Adult Fiction, by Anna Jackson, Geoffrey Miles, Harry Ricketts, Tatjana Schaefer and Kathryn Walls (Victoria University Press, 2012) pp. 223, $40.
Young adult fiction seems to me to be a leaky genre: a literary intersection that raises questions the minute you try to define it. Is YA fiction primarily pitched at the young adult reader? Does the teenage reader occupy a borderland of reading where one hand scoops up Jane Eyre or 1984 or Great Expectations,while the other hand reaches for The Hunger Games or Feed or The Dreamhunter (or nostalgically picks up Harry Potter again)? Does YA fiction need to feature a teenage protagonist who gets caught in conflict and situations that he or she will overcome? Will there be an astute ear on the part of the author for contemporary teenage dialogue, for fashions, preoccupations, angst, cultural markers and so on? Is the YA fiction label just a marketing tool?
Yet, however critics, academics, authors and readers might attempt to define it, there remains an enduring passion for the genre’s products: its books. Perhaps it is because this canon takes adult readers back to that nostalgic moment when we were in pursuit of the big issues and ideal solutions, and when we thought, in our state of youthful freedoms, we could do anything and the world was as boundless as we wanted it to be.