Age in Young Adult Fiction

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When reading books such as Hunger Games or Ender’s Game, one thing that sets the story apart is the age of the main characters. Katniss Everdeen, the star of Hunger Games, is barely sixteen at the beginning of the games and many of the other contestants are even younger, down to the age of twelve. Ender from Ender’s Game is only eleven when the end of his story comes. Both of these main characters are still young, as are the majority of the other characters in both of these books, but this begs the question, because the main characters are young, is it appropriate for the readers to be young as well? Or is the term “Young Adult Literature” misleading? Before looking more in depth at the age of the characters, and what role that plays in the over all story, a few terms must be defined. The use of age in these novels can only be made once the ideas being discussed are determined. Young adult literature is a genre that everyone seems to be drawn to because of some of the most defining factors. There are many criteria for a book to be defined as Young Adult Literature. The first and arguably the most important is that the main characters be young adults, and their lives in the story must reflect this. The way they think and problem solve as well as the characters’ interests must be that of a young adult (Manning). A young adult is someone in usually ranging from the age of ten to twenty—in their teen years—although many readers of this genre are much older. In fact over 55% of young adult books sold are bought by people much older than this (Publisher’s Weekly). A second defining factor of this genre is the primary issues the characters must deal with. The struggles they deal with should relate with the struggles of the reader, so th... ... middle of paper ... ...change the story. The way authors such as Scott Orson Card and Susanne Collins are using age in their stories to create more diversity and sense of empathy is brilliant. Card uses it in Ender’s Game to take a young boy from a repulsive third, through battle school and ultimately to a hero of the universe. Collins applies the idea of young age in Hunger Games to follow a girl through her journey of going from a nonentity in district twelve to a heroine of the capitol after winning the horrifying Hunger Games. These stories would not have the character development or the empathy piece that they do because of the age of the characters. The reader is able to relate with the young characters, and that also makes the story much more enjoyable. The central role of young characters allows for a very exciting and relatable genre of literature found in Young Adult Literature.
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