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Genre Guide: Young Adult Humor

2013 July 29
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comedy masksDisclaimer

It is almost impossible to define or categorize what constitues a “humor book” versus a “book that is funny.” Nonetheless, I think it is important to be able to point to books that have an overarching comic, comedic, or humorous plot. These are the books I will label as part of the “humor” genre, even though humor is a lot more complicated and broad than that.

Definition

According to arbitrary rules of comedy that comedians/comic writers break all the time, a comic plot is one that continues to escalate, or “raise the stakes,” until it is fundamentally resolved in some manner, and ends with the general success of the protagonist, often (but not necessarily) romantically. I’m personally going to say that a young adult humor book is one in which some comedic device, whether it’s a classic trope like the ol’ mistaken identity trick, or something more complex, like a plot that relies a lot on situational irony, takes up most of the plot. The plot can still include romance, fantastical or science fiction elements, tragedy, etc.

Authors to Know

Characteristics

Again, this is nearly impossible to pin down, but generally speaking, a YA book that is categorized as “humor” should make you laugh (or, at least, make a good number of people laugh, since comedy is subjective). Common themes might include situational or dramatic irony; black humor or dark humor surrounding death, disease, or plague; failed romantic attempts; main characters repeatedly making similar mistakes; wordplay; and satire or parody.

Appeal

Well, who doesn’t love to laugh? Additionally, these books appeal to readers who might want a break from the doom and gloom of dystopian fiction. Some people also feel that humorous authors write more realistically than others, since we all have silly or funny things happen to us occasionally. Or, uh, daily.

Readers

An enormous range! One of the biggest ranges in YA literature, probably.

Websites

While there are no particular websites for young adult humor some good places to start include:

Reference Books

  • Comedy by Andrew Stott (in case you’re annoyed or confused by my terminology)
  • Humor in Young Adult Literature: A Time to Laugh by Walter Hogan

Recommended Titles

See this handy post I wrote a few months back!

— Chelsea Condren, currently reading Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris (a very funny book.)

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2 Responses
  1. Molly Wetta permalink
    July 29, 2013

    I had a hard time matching up teens and books when all they gave me to go on was “something funny” because often times my idea of hilarious was very different than anyone else’s. There are so many different types of humor! That prompted me to make a Humor in YA flowchart — patrons have loved it! See it here.

  2. Alissa permalink
    August 16, 2013

    Hi Molly. A flow chart is a fantastic idea! Something I may have to try here. Book taste is so relative and person-specific that yes, matching teens with books can be difficult. Especially when they’re not entirely sure what they want. But I’m always up for a challenge :) Usually my tactic is to, for starters, ask them about their favorite book or, if they don’t have a favorite, the last thing they read that they liked. In 99% of the cases, this works. But a flow chart would be very useful in helping the teens visualize and narrow down their options.

    Thank you!

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