I had an interesting conversation this week in which I made the comment that Stephenie Meyer's writing was elementary, uninspired and full of cliches. The person I was talking to said, "Well, I've heard her books were written for children from the fourth or fifth grade up to high school." I was speechless. (Those of you who know me, know this is as rare as seeing a baiji.)
For several long moments I could only stare in wonder and stupefied amazement. Really? Really?! Am I to understand correctly then, that writing for preteens and teens (typically referred to as YA) means you dumb down your writing? Frankly, I can't even begin to wrap my mind around this reasoning.
Reading, whether fiction or non-fiction, serves to stretch the mind. When one encounters good, proper writing the vocabulary, sentence structure, syntax and grammar work to edify the mind. The work itself should give the reader something to think on, perhaps even introduce a heretofore unconsidered topic.
Yet common thinking, and I hesitate to even call this thinking, dictates that writing for YA should be elementary. In other words -- condescending. No wonder my son started reading adult books in the fourth grade!
Parents and teachers all say they want children to read to enhance the learning process. How does the Twilight series enhance the learning process? And lest you think I am only finding fault with Stephenie Meyer -- I'm not. There are several offenders. Stephenie Meyer simply has the "distinction" of being the most popular offender at the moment.
As I've pondered this topic, I've come to the conclusion that writing YA literature should be like writing for adults. YA authors should strive to write in a style that showcases good vocabulary, proper use of grammar, and engaging plots and characters. The YA author should seek to introduce unique perspectives and ideas that cause the young reader to think beyond the confines of his present world. The only thing the YA author should refrain from is inappropriate subject matter. In all other aspects, YA literature should mimic adult literature.