Young Adult Literature: Renewing Popular Interest in Books

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Anyone with a high school education has probably heard of the ‘greats’ in classic literature, such as The Catcher in the Rye, To Kill A Mockingbird, and The Great Gatsby. And sure, if you are an avid reader, you most likely appreciate sophisticated prose. However, in the past fourteen years, the world has experienced a new kind of literary boom with the eruption of the Young Adult genre. This breed of literature, frequently referred to as YA lit, has experienced an exponential rise to fame, riding on the tailwind of books like The Hunger Games, Twilight, and the Harry Potter series.

This evolving genre is “on a roller coaster that only goes up, my friend.” The YA motif has expanded into the realms of realistic fiction, fantasy, and adventure. The variety of subjects YA lit offers has blurred the lines between fiction and non-fiction and the lines that separate young adult and adult readership.

Jennifer Lynn Barnes, a young adult author, says, “Just like adolescence is between childhood and adulthood, paranormal, or other, is between human and supernatural. Teens are caught between two worlds, childhood and adulthood, and in YA, they can navigate those two worlds and sometimes dualities of other worlds.”

The term ‘young adult’ was coined in the 1960s and originally referenced teens ages 12-18. Now that term has stretched to include readers from 10-29. Furthermore, “16-to 29-year-olds are the largest group checking out books from their local libraries,”, and a 2012 survey even found that 55% of YA books are bought by people older than 18, and 28% by those between 30 and 44 years old.

However, because of its ‘young adult’ label, the YA lit community is facing backlash from people who believe that individuals should not read YA lit if they are out of the acceptable age range, despite the fact that the range is intended to identify a target audience, not place limitations. Blogger Ruth Graham claims that “Adults should feel embarrassed about reading literature written for children,” because of its “maudlin teen dramas” and endings that are “far too simple.” Opinions like these give young adult literature a negative stigma. While some books may have contrived plots or clichéd characters, the entire genre should not be condemned. YA books explore legitimate topics and controversies in language that is understandable and situations that are relatable. Meaningful themes teach readers valuable life lessons that they might not receive otherwise.

Adults should not be embarrassed to read YA books, because the experiences of adolescence are not something you endure and forget. They stay with you forever. Reading a novel considered to be ‘young adult’ allows adults to revisit those emotions, and remind them every so often that they did not instantly jump from 13 to 30.

Young adult literature creates a deeper love of all literature that allows readers to transition from works by J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer to the lasting classics of J.D. Salinger and Harper Lee. In today’s society, it is far too easy for teens to choose a video game over a printed piece of literature. YA lit is taking the world by storm, which means more teenagers are reading, and that is pretty amazing.

by Jennifer Rohrbach

English vs. Creative Writing: Which Major is For You?

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Image via voyant-tools.org

Image via voyant-tools.org

You love words, so you’ve decided to follow your heart and take on that liberal arts degree, but you’re having trouble deciding between a major in English and one in Creative Writing. You don’t really want to do both – a double major sounds like too much – and you’re still partly afraid that your friends are right when they joke about spending the rest of your life asking “Would you like cream and sugar in that?”

The question to really ask, more than what major to pursue, is what you want to get out of it, or do with it, in the long run. What skills are you looking to learn? What kind of reading gets you going?

If what you loved about your high school English classes was the opportunity to read the classics, then English is probably more your pace. The English major is designed to look critically at “Literature with a capital L,” as one of my professors describes it. Your classes will involve close reading, craft analysis, and a lot of critical thinking about works written by men who are probably long-dead.

But what about after college? In the professional world, Milton and Shakespeare might not seem particularly applicable, but the skills you learn from studying them will be. Aside from the more obvious benefits of being able to compose a coherent email, you will be able to effectively communicate thoughts and connect with people.

According to an article by Business Insider, Logitech CEO Bracken Darren likes hiring English majors because “these soft skills come from personal aptitudes and attitudes that are often attained after years of studying the liberal arts…. There’s a thoughtfulness about culture that isn’t emphasized in majors outside literature and the arts.”

If you find yourself more interested in constructing your own work, your home is probably in the Creative Writing department. Your classes will involve reading more recent work within a genre. Milton and Shakespeare are all well and good, and you’ll certainly take your fair share of Lit courses, but they won’t be enough to make you shine in today’s tough market if you’re actually trying to make it as a writer. What classical writers have “always done” and what defines Literature isn’t always what people are doing today.

Professionally speaking, your options will be more specific, and from some perspectives, limited. If you’re looking to write for a living, or are interested in the publishing business, then Creative Writing will look just as good on a résumé as English, but employers outside of the field might respect it less. How does being able to construct a solid narrative or stick to a rhyme scheme make you the right person for the job? This major will teach you critical thinking as well, but it will nurture your creative side even more, and urge you to explore new styles.

No matter which major you choose, it’s hardly an either-or decision. If you choose Creative Writing, most schools will require several English classes; in an English major, you can use your electives to explore Creative Writing and its possibilities.

by Sierra Offutt

The Hidden Values of a Liberal Arts Education

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You’re sitting in front of endless college applications as a recent high school graduate, and the options of majors are swimming around you, pulling you from thought to thought, begging you to make a choice; to brand yourself with a “life path” that seems permanent. Your parents are telling you to follow your heart, while your peers are advocating for something practical. (But what’s more practical than following your heart?) Now you realize that your choice of a college major is, in some abstract way, a defining piece of who you want to be and what it is that you value. You begin to notice that your peers value practicality over passion and will force themselves to love something they don’t even like. But their vision of practicality is cloudy. There are things you weren’t told.

After a little research you start to notice that by picking English as a major, you’re just as likely to land a job after graduating than nearly everyone else.

“English majors aren’t actually faring as poorly in the job market as the cultural dialogue would have us believe. According to 2010-2011 data from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, cited by The Atlantic, right after graduating, English and history majors reported 9.8 and 9.5 percent unemployment, respectively, while economics and political science graduates came in at 10.4 and 11.1 percent. “Practical” computer science degrees didn’t make graduates much more employable, with the comp sci unemployment rate coming in at 8.7 percent. And that’s just employment outcomes right after school; the picture may get rosier as time goes on, as employers generally prefer liberal arts grads, according to a 2012 survey.”

(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/14/how-english-majors-are-ch_n_4943792.html)

You realize that you possess a specific skill set not learned in a text book.

“Around a year ago, I surveyed more than 100 senior business leaders to get their views on the current state of talent and talent management. Eighty-four percent of them agreed that they would rather hire a person who is smart and passionate, even if the person does not yet possess the specific skills they need. One point of which we can all be certain is that the skills in use today won’t be sufficient to meet the needs of tomorrow. What matters is knowing how to accumulate knowledge and put it to smart use

(http://www.fastcompany.com/3028811/in-defense-of-a-liberal-arts-degree)

And then it hits you that some of the most successful people in our culture were once in your shoes.

“…former Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney opened up about the fact that he was once (gasp!) an English major.”

“Other English majors in media include ABC World News anchor Diane Sawyer, NBC News anchor Andrea Mitchell, and former TODAY Show host David Garroway — not to mention countless print and online journalists. One of the most successful news media executives — Grant Tinker, former NBC CEO and TV producer — studied English at Dartmouth University before taking a job as a management trainee at NBC, Business Insider reported.”

(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/14/how-english-majors-are-ch_n_4943792.html)

By now you’ve come to the conclusion that humanities majors are an essential part of our society’s way of life. They are the voices of reason amongst the chaos and confusion of life. They provide the brief moments when everyone steps aside from their busy, practical lives and remembers how it feels to be human.

by Kimberlee Roberts

with special thanks to Dr. Janine Utell for inspiration and education on the subject. 

Undergraduates: Send Your Best Poetry and Prose

The Blue Route is now reading for Issue #13. After carefully reading our revised submission guidelines, send us your very best poetry, fiction, and nonfiction for consideration.  Please note that we are now paying contributors 25 dollars for their work!

Issue #12

Issue #12 is now live, featuring fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry by undergraduate students from Ball State University, Central Michigan University, Hartwick College, Lehigh University, University of California Irvine, University of Connecticut, and Ursinus College.  We’ll be open again for submissions on Sept. 8.

We’re Ready to Read

Undergraduates: Our staff looks forward to reading your best poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction.  See the Submissions page for guidelines.  Please note: The deadline for submissions for issue #12 is Friday, March 21, 2014.

Issue 11 is Here!

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Issue 11 is live, featuring new poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction by undergraduate writers from Rowan University, Stephen F. Austin State University, Swarthmore College, and Western Kentucky University.

Our submission period will open again on February 1.

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