Clearly defining "youth literature" may be very difficult for people concerned with publishing and literature. Youth literature is only a "concept" and it is far from real literature. On essential literary elements such as plot and language power, youth literature works have significant room for growth.
Most youth literature writers are young people who were born after 1980. Young people of this generation have spent their whole lives in relative prosperity – they cannot comprehend the miseries their parents and grandparents had to endure. Moreover, they don't have the time, energy or interest to gain in-depth knowledge of the contemporary environment in which they live, which to some extent leads to lack of content in their works due to lack of life experience. In terms of its development process, youth literature is the outcome of commercialization; therefore, it inevitably has an impetuous and shallow character.
Currently, youth literature dominates the book market--the number of readers exceeds even readers of some classical books.
The last decade saw many excellent youth literature writers. Early representative writers and works include Flower and Rainy Season (Huaji, Yuji) by Yu Xiu and Triple Gates (San Chong Men) by Han Han. Later books by Guo Jingming and Zhang Yueran that express emotions also became representative works of youth literature.
Those books include Guo's Rush to the Dead Summer (Xiazhi Weizhi) and Cry Me a Sad River (Beishang Niliu Chenghe) and Zhang's Oath Bird (Shi Niao). After 2006, representative youth literature writers such as Rao Xueman, Mu Xia and Deng Andong rose rapidly, choosing "pain in youth" as the theme of their works.
Representative works by Rao Xueman include Left Ear (Zuo Er) and Sandglass (Sha Lou), while Mu Xia is best known for Lost City (Mi Cheng) and Adzuki Bean (Hong Dou). Deng Andong wrote A Rogue Who Loved Me (You Ge Liumang Ai Guo Wo) and Confusion (Mi Luan). All the works mentioned have sold millions of copies, putting them in a pivotal position in the youth book market and inspiring a new round of youth literature writers.
Viewing these youth literature writers and their representative works, the sense of reality in youth literature is becoming weaker while commercialization and fashion sense are becoming increasingly obvious.
Early youth literature works Flower and Rainy Season (Huaji, Yuji) and Triple Gates (San Chong Men) used campus life as their background. Although they focused on the emotional problems of middle school students, their content was, to a large extent, related to reality. Later works such as Guo's Fantasy City (Huan Cheng) and "pain in youth" fiction feature elements of fantasy and scenes that cross the boundaries of time and space. By catering to young people's preference for fantasy and nameless sorrow, a new trend of "type" and sense of fashion has emerged in youth literature.
Youth literature is developing towards this "type" and away from mainstream literature. It not only creates a new field in the book market, but also helps youth literature prosper and promotes the growth of youth literature writers.
For instance, youth literature writers Guo Jingming and Rao Xueman have developed their own distinctive features. In the meantime, however, the content of youth literature is becoming similar and shallow. Therefore, the characters in youth literature books may be summarized as "rich on the outside, monotonous on the inside."
Up to now, youth literature could be subcategorized into youth love, ancient love, mystery, fantasy, grave robbing, pass through, and new martial arts.
Under each category there are different variants. Take pass-through fiction, for example. It includes hero pass through, heroine pass through and time and space pass through. On the surface, pass-through fiction appears to have rich content and many types. But since people can clearly divide it into different types, we can see that different pass-through fiction books have similar plots and expression techniques.
Other youth literature types such as youth love and grave robbing have similar problems in varying degrees. The prosperity of type in youth literature indicates the bottleneck in its development. It is high time that youth literature consider its outlet.
(Translated LIU CHUNYU)