“YA made me realize that I had power as a girl. The first book I remember reading that might be classified as YA, The Girl Who Owned a City by O.T. Nelson, has a female protagonist who has to summon extraordinary courage and basically take over from adults. YA was the only genre I had access to in which young women did that: had power, took charge.”
Young adult author Alison Stine published in several genres before venturing into YA, including poetry and essays. Her debut YA novel, Supervision, released in early April. Her enthusiasm about YA is contagious.
“YA novels are where I feel I can fully express myself, and my hope for the world,” said Stine.
One of the things Stine loves most about YA is the prevalence of female authors. While the literary world as a whole continues to be dominated by male voices, she believes that YA is unique in that there is such a vibrant, supportive, and diverse base of women writing it.
“YA novels feature girls in strong roles, protagonists in positions of power and leadership, who are physically and mentally strong and who must make difficult choices,” said Stine.
Stine has taught in high school and university classrooms for over a decade, and loves bringing YA to her students.
“YA deserves a place in the classroom. Most of the books I read in class when I was in high school were about boys and their fathers. April Morning, A Separate Piece, The Red Badge of Courage… At a certain point I was like: Okay, okay, I get the boys coming of age—but what about the girls?” she said.
Bringing female voices and perspectives to the table is a huge passion for her.
“This semester in my own fiction class, I’m teaching Kelly Link. Link isn’t identified as YA per se, but many of her stories feature girls solving crimes, dealing with ghosts, dispatching monsters. I’ve been a teacher for over ten years, both at the high school level and college, and I want my female students to have role models in literature, as their male classmates easily, already do. We need YA in the classroom to demonstrate inventive, exciting writing as well as to model different kinds of lives. Imagining is the first step to building a real world where women and girls are equal to men and boys.”
When it comes to those who don’t consider YA “real” literature, whether in classroom use or otherwise, Stine has some advice:
“Read some!…I wonder if the people who don’t consider YA to be “real” or “valuable” don’t consider young lives powerful, younger voices worth hearing? If so, that’s a huge mistake, and I feel sorry for those denying themselves such meaningful, moving stories. Many think the classic To Kill a Mockingbird would be classified as YA today.”
Stine is not only an educator, an advocate, and writer, she is also a staunch supporter of anyone who brings books into the lives of young readers.
“You know what you’re doing, teachers and librarians, and the impact you’re having by suggesting books, promoting them, and empowering high school readers and writers will be felt for generations, even if the school board doesn’t understand,” she said.
Supervision is available now from HarperVoyager. You can learn more about Alison Stine on her website.