Awhile back, I read The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George. The concept is intriguing. A book apothecary recommends books to “cure” people of their ills. Of course, there’s more to the book than that, but that’s the part that’s relevant to this discussion. I looked up some of the books he recommended, and they sounded like literary fiction to me.
What is literary fiction? you ask.
Good question. According to Wikipedia (but this is essentially the answer I’ve seen everywhere):
Literary fiction comprises fictional works that hold literary merit; that is, they involve social commentary, or political criticism, or focus on the human condition. Literary fiction is deliberately written in dialogue with existing works, created with the above aims in mind and is focused more on themes than on plot, and it is common for literary fiction to be taught and discussed in schools and universities.
Literary fiction is usually contrasted with popular, commercial, or genre fiction. Some have described the difference between them in terms of analyzing reality (literary) rather than escaping reality (popular). The contrast between these two subsets of fiction is controversial among critics and scholars. Source: Wikipedia
So, in a nutshell, it’s about analysis vs. escape. I like some literary fiction. And I like lots and lots of genre fiction. I think that, in general, the analysis vs. escape definition fits.
So it got me to thinking if genre fiction ever crosses that line into analysis, and if genre fiction can be as life changing as literary fiction.
I would argue that it can. And in fact, I think young adult fiction tends to do a lot of that.
I realize this is a bold assertion. After all, there are pages and pages dedicated to either people saying “I love YA and won’t apologize for it” and “Adults should be ashamed of reading books made for kids.” Honestly, both sides of the argument are compelling.
But I think that YA is uniquely appropriate for analyzing reality. After all, before they learn that they don’t know everything, many teens are amateur philosophers, solving all the world’s problems. I don’t miss the arrogance and self-centeredness of that time (and I was), but I miss the feeling of having all the answers. Teens are passionate about issues because they haven’t gotten to the point where they realize they don’t have time to be passionate about everything they care about. They don’t know how to pick their battles.
I’m not trying to say that all YA books analyze reality, or even reflect it in any meaningful way. But the ones that do can promote some good discussions and make me think about the nature of reality.
6 Genre Books That Explore Complex Issues
- This Savage Song/ Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab: Discusses the nature of responsibility for one’s actions, and that actions have consequences. (genre: dystopian YA)
- Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes: This was a controversial book because of the way it portrayed one of the main characters, Will. Will became quadriplegic because of an accident, and is also suicidal. While I understand the concerns associated with this book, I loved it because it explores the nature of self-determination, and an individual’s right to choose. (genre: romance)
- And The Trees Crept In, by Dawn Kurtagich: Explores the nature of grief and loss, and how our choices can imprison us (genre: YA horror)
- Six Months, Three Days, by Charlie Jane Anders: Explores the nature of choice and fate. (genre: science fiction novella)
- All the Bright Places, by Jennifer Niven: The main characters struggle with suicidal ideation and depression, and this book looks at how that can manifest for different people, and that sometimes there are no good “reasons.” (genre: YA)
- The Female of the Species, by Mindy McGinnis: Looks at themes of vigilante justice, self-protection, friendship, and how actions can have unexpected consequences. (genre: YA)
Have you ever had a genre book impact your life? What book would you “prescribe” to others?