By Ratna Manucha
Young adult fiction is the most commonly read and probably the most popular. As its name suggests, it is writing for young children who are on the threshold of adulthood. It is easy to underestimate writings for young adults, but to my mind, it is one of the most difficult tasks. There is a thin line between writing for young adults and writing for adults, and the writer has to be careful not to cross that line. One has to be mindful of the language being used, because as I mentioned earlier, the readers are yet not quite grown up! As an adult, to get back into the teenage mindset and write in the teenage voice requires an effort.
Young adults are temperamental and driven by their emotions. At this stage, they are grappling with changes in their bodies, mood swings, questioning ideas and people and generally trying to carve their own path in the outside world. Many of them at this stage are getting ready to leave the comforts of their home and old friends, to go to another city or country.
Which is why I was pleasantly surprised at the selection of books that were submitted this year in the VOW Young Adults Section. It was an eclectic mix and spread across many genres, ranging from graphic novels to the spooky, to folk tales and parables and animal stories.
I would like to mention the names of the books in random order that made it to the short list this year – an admirable collection. Kudos to the authors for coming up with such interesting stories.
1. The Phoenix in the sky – Indira Ananthakrishnan’s heartwarming collection of stories handpicked from a range of texts like the Mahabharata, the Upanishads, the Bible and even Jain parables and Lao Tzu’s teachings, offer simple lessons on kindness and generosity, while at the same time asking thought provoking questions about life and the universe. The stories are short and crisp and there are many which we may have heard from our grandparents and parents, but today’s generation may have missed out on.
2. Loki Takes Guard – This is an entertaining, coming of age story about a young girl determined to break into the boys’ bastion – cricket. The author, Menaka Raman, has very cleverly woven the three most important things that concern the Indian Diaspora – gender bias, cricket and tweeting on Twitter. A smooth read, with witty one-liners, it is ideal for both boys and girls. A wholesome well rounded story, it keeps up the reader’s interest, from beginning to end.
3. Gravepyres School for the Recently Deceased – Anita Roy is the author of several non-fiction books for children. This is her first novel and she has dealt with a morbid topic like death in a very sensitive fashion, laced with a touch of humour. Her puns on many commonly used words will hold the reader enthralled.
4. The secret life of Debbie G. – A bittersweet coming of age story. Vibha Batra and Kalyani Ganapathy have tackled most of the topics that young teens grapple with in the modern day world– divorce, live-ins and even same sex relationships. It is a graphic novel and is sure to find a reader base among young adults as graphic novels are slowly but surely becoming the norm.
5. OGD – A whimsical, quirky little book, full of random, nonsensical prose, on the lines of Lewis Carroll. On the other hand, if one reads between the lines, it is pretty profound. Take a look at this – “Once upon a time, in the kingdom of Ogd, a Messiah was born…with her foot in her mouth.”
The emotional drive of young adult fiction is what separates it from other stories and it is the ability of these texts to inherently understand and explore human emotions that makes reading them such an enjoyable journey.
(Ratna Manucha is an author and educationist)