Symbolism in YA? [Edit]

On Monday I had a Penguin Publishing meeting. My friends (the Insiders) and I met Gayle Forman, author of If I Stay. We got on the topic of symbolism because us teens just had to know the truth about it.

In school our English teachers dissect every little part of the novel we’re reading. Apparently classics are just bursting with symbolism and we need to look deeper into the scenes, characters, and diction to understand the full meaning of it. The question is: Is there symbolism in YA novels?!

There are enough instances where certain object or names could be more than what it perceives to be. I know I have read a book and thought whether –insert thing here- had more meaning than I thought it did.  Teachers drill it into our heads that there is symbolism in almost everything and if you analyze, you’ll understand and see the true meaning.

We asked Gayle Forman and Julie Strauss-Gabel (an editor from Penguin) this question. Gayle Forman laughed and proceeded to tell us her story about how people try and decipher why Mia and Adam are named what they are. Some people have creatively come up with an idea that Mia stands for Missing in Action. Gayle told us that when most authors choose a name, they just choose it to choose (so Mia and Adam are not named for any reason). Gayle also continued to say “And even if there is [symbolism] then we don’t know that we are putting it in!”

I had misunderstood our meeting, so my first post talked about how there wasn’t much symbolism in YA. Gayle Forman commented on my original post and told me there is plenty of symbolism in YA. “My point was that a lot of times, the symbolism that goes into books happens automatically, through telling of story, not because an author is trying to be heavy-handed and give you lots of English homework.” Well, I guess it’s good that I know there really is meaning behind something if I think there is.

In the end, a few parts of the novel -like names -are not trying to symbolize anything. As for the most part, YA has as much symbolism as any other novel.

I don’t know about you guys, but I am actually proud of myself when I’m able to analyze something in a novel I’m reading for fun. Thoughts?! Leave them below!

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