In previous posts, I have sorted through possible definitions of Young Adult literature and how we may attempt to sort books into this category. Young Adult literature seems to be based on a character finding his or her way in the world – as they have a general grasp on who they are & how they define themselves as individuals, but are often faced with a controversy that allows them to see themselves in a new light or learn something new about themselves. This week, I read The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde, and this book definitely fits into the category of Y.A. based on the above definition because we see the main character, Jennifer Strange, faced with protecting and defending her morality to the modern day magical world depicted in the novel. Although Jennifer faces a trial of integrity in which she learns deeper lessons about herself, I think the humor and tone of this story would be better fit for Middle Grades Literature. Middle grades may not necessarily fit into the mindset of Jennifer as she is nearly 16 years old & has a job/responsibilities, which they may not understand, but the gradual plot & humor between Jennifer & her pet, Gwauk, would allow itself well to middle grades readers.
The Last Dragonslayer also resembles the Harry Potter series in terms of detailing aspects of the magical world, although Fforde’s world contains very different rules about magic than Rowling’s world. As a fiercely loyal fan of the Harry Potter series, it is hard for my heart to buy into any other magical world, but I think Fforde does a wonderful job of world development. I do think the magical world stories are a current craze, but not necessarily a “trend” because fairytale-style stories have always been beloved by readers for centuries. The Last Dragonslayer may be a book I pass down to my children or students one day, but I am not entirely convinced that it will be as cherished as the Harry Potter series will be, but that is also a matter of scale. The “magical” Y.A. style may not always be as popular as it is at present, but I think the Bildungsroman, “coming of age,” novel that the Young Adult novel represents will persist.
Young Adult literature is a unique category because of its appeal to all age groups. As I am moving more into the “Adult” category rather than “Young Adult,” I find myself still appreciating and enjoying the stories told from a perspective of a young Adult because I think it is a time in all of our lives that we can each easily take ourselves back to and have empathy for the characters as they grow and learn.