On Tuesday February 12, the Oscar Awards of young adult and children’s literature were held in the early morning hours in Denver, Colorado. Imagine a banquet hall full of librarians and library professionals getting very loud and very proud during an award ceremony at 8 a.m. in the morning when winner and honor books are revealed after a year of fervent speculation.
One of those award winners was young adult fiction author Nina LaCour who earned the prestigious Michael L. Printz Award awarded every year to a novel that “exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature”.
We Are Okay is the understated and richly layered story of college freshman Marin, who has escaped painful memories in northern California during her freshman year in a small New York college town. She waits, alone in deserted dormitory over winter break, for her estranged best friend Mabel to arrive for a visit during which she will come to terms with all that she’s been avoiding.
One of the many things that make We Are Okay exceptional in the landscape of young adult fiction, is that its main character is not in high school in the midst of a coming-of-age experience surrounded by family or friends. She’s a college freshman, on her own for the first time, engaging with the world as an independent adult.
Young Adult fiction has long been the purview of teens and their middle or high school experiences. Here we have a novel that is one among a burgeoning list of young adult novels to appear in recent years that feature young adults in post-high school and collegiate settings: responding to independence and responsibility, learning how to be separate people apart from their parents and making decisions that have impactful ramifications on their future selves. At the same time we are treated to young adult novels that are expanding the definition of what it means to be a young adult and what it means to be a young adult novel.
A booklist of Young Adult fiction featuring post-high school graduates can be found here.