ENG 499: Defining Young Adult Science Fiction Literature


As a lover of language, words or phrases and their definitions are imperative to conveying their meanings. However, some are more difficult than others. How would one define “young adult science fiction literature”, or YA Sci-Fi? One needs to break down the phrase into smaller parts.

First, literature. Oxford Dictionary would define literature as “written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit”. As a reader of literature, I can agree on its broad terms. Literature has to be in a visual, written context in order to be enjoyed, rather than viewed like a television show or a play. Also, literature is defined as “superior” with “artistic merit”. It means that literature, rather than an unknown person’s written material or journal entry, is remembered because of the artistic expression. Usually, I’d say literature is worth remembering when I can relate it to some aspect of my own life, or makes me look at the bigger picture of humanity or the world in a different perspective.

Second is defining “young adult literature”. Aiming for a younger audience with its easier diction, YA Lit has a style that aims to reflect an adolescent mind, since YA Lit is usually narrated by a young person. YA Lit has the character looking at their own life, noticing the world for the first, rather than being absorbed in their routine, with mundane or seemingly ordinary trials and tribulations (ex. car accidents, death of a family member, realizing that they aren’t as popular as they seem to be when they start losing friends, etc.). YA Lit also has the aspects of perceiving humanity on a microscopic level, one where the reader and the story itself can share a special connection. For older readers, YA Lit may remind them of their own mistakes, and how they triumphed through them. Simply put, YA Lit focuses on individual identity in a diverse world.

Third is defining “science fiction literature”. This genre, so to speak, has expounded since the Age of Technology was born. Authors, ranging from Mary Shelley, H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, to Orson Scott Card to even Stephenie Meyer, cross a vast playing field. The “canon” for science fiction lies within H.G. Wells and Jules Verne; however, Sci-Fi Lit continues to remain popular to this day, even becoming explored in the visual media, with “Walking Dead”, “Doctor Who”, and the superhero movies. (I’ll offer a blog that talks about the “Top 10 Most Influential Science Ficiton Writers here: http://listverse.com/2008/03/03/top-10-most-influential-science-fiction-writers/)
However, Sci-Fi, in one sentence, covers a world that is similar to the present day, with only a few changes, reminding us, the readers, on what to reflect on our own reality. It takes a few changes, say technology or a man-made apocalypse, and reminds the readers the fears our current society has. It’s like a time theory; every choice offers a new path, revealing infinite possibilities for the future. Sci-Fi Lit offers readers a different, yet eerily similar time string to follow.

Now, the difficult part; combining the definitions together to create an explanation to the phrase “young adult science fiction literature”.  The definition is like creating a cake: the batter-it takes a young character, through a journey; the heat-the plot asks the characters to inspect their own identity or tests their beliefs, while living a life that may seem eerily similar to the reader’s past or present; and finally, the icing-having the sense of human fears with a world that is eerily similar, with changes in the system of the government, or technology, or nature itself.


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