Is it wrong for adults to read young adult literature?

There has been a lot of controversial articles, blogs, posts and heated online discussions over the course of the last year on the topic of adults reading literature intended for young adults. I was particularly incensed by this inflammatory article  in Slate.

As an author of young adult fiction and an avid reader of the genre, I wanted to share my thoughts on this rather heated subject matter.

It’s only fair that I should point out upfront that this post comes with a pretty hefty ‘rant warning’.  You have been forewarned!

Eighty percent of my time, I am a responsible wife, mother, employee and quite strait-laced! I relish the other twenty percent where I give in to my inner-teenager and indulge my passion for teenage books, music, and movies. For me, it is pure escapism and a way to chill-out. I think life is about diversity in our choices and our interests, and we should never be afraid to show who we truly are.

Harry Potter and The Twilight saga were the stories that hooked me on the YA genre though at first I remember feeling embarrassed that I was reading them, until I realized that I was not alone. I read the same survey quoted in the Slate article, where the analysis identified that fifty-five percent of people who purchase YA books are adults. I wasn’t in the least bit surprised.

Now, I don’t just read YA books, I am also a voracious reader of murder-mysteries/crime/suspense novels. Tess Gerritsen is one of my all-time favorite writers, alongside Patricia Cornwell, Kathy Reichs, and Michael Connelly, to name a few. I also read other adult genres; I’ve read a lot of the classics, plenty of corporate non-fiction books and I do not discriminate in my choices.  If I like the sound of a book or I have received a recommendation then I’ll read it.

However, there are certain times when all I want to read is YA. Because I love-love-love the action/adventure, kick-ass heroines, swoon-worthy romance, and the pure fantasy of the worlds created by some of my favorite YA authors. I don’t tend to read much contemporary YA stuff though I adore John Green’s TFIOS, and I disagree completely with Ruth Graham’s observations of this book in the Slate article. I found the dialog between Hazel and Gus to be very compelling, emotive and refreshing, and yes, it was a little cheesy at times, but I still loved it. Seriously, who doesn’t love a bit of cheese every now and then? Moreover, how is that ending a typical satisfactory ending? Or Allegiant’s ending? That had the entire Divergent fan base split right down the middle.

So if it’s seemingly wrong, as an adult, to read books ‘written for teenagers’ then does that logic apply to movies as well? Some of the greatest, and most successful, movies of all times have been children’s and teen movies. Back to the Future, Rebel without a Cause, ET, Harry Potter, etc., etc. Does going to see the latest Avengers Assemble movie with my children (one is a teenager) set a bad example? In the same way it’s suggested that my reading of Laini Taylor’s ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone’ Trilogy or Jennifer L. Armentrout’s ‘Covenent Series’ would imply? To suggest, as Ruth Graham does in her article, that reading YA fiction sends out the wrong message to our teenage children, is absurd in my view. Surely the point is this: If children see their parents reading, they are more inclined to read themselves, irrespective of what genre the content is. Anything that encourages the youth of today to read more is a positive in my book (pardon the pun). Sharing some of the same reading material opens up opportunities for parents to engage in meaningful discussions with their children about these books, and to explore the issues/themes.

Rant almost over.

Some commentators have said that the writing quality in YA literature is questionable in the extreme. I disagree. While I do not pick up a YA book expecting it to be a literary work of art, I am often pleasantly surprised at the exceptional talent of so many who write in this genre. Many of these books surpass the quality of a lot of so called ‘adult literature’ that is out there in the market.

In my opinion, readers should be allowed to make their own decisions regarding books they choose to read, without risk of vilification. Because the pleasure of reading is what it is all about, and that is purely subjective. If we start expecting people to restrict their reading material, based on a narrow societal categorization of what’s deemed appropriate, then ultimately fewer people will read, and that is not a good thing.

Are you an adult who reads young adult books? If so we’d love to hear from you! What do you feel about all the controversy? Why do you enjoy reading YA books and what is it in particular that attracts you to this genre?

Fictional Worlds I’d love to visit

Morning everyone,

A blogger recently set me an interesting challenge: To identify the top ten fictional worlds I’d like to visit and why. I had great fun coming up with this list, and now I have a real bad case of travel-lust. 🙂 Reading back over my answers, I realize that in many cases my sole reason for wanting to visit these places is purely for the men that inhabit these fictional worlds. Gosh, I am so shallow! I just hope my husband never reads this!!

10Asgard – The visual depiction of Marvel-Universe-created Asgard in the Thor movies is stunning, and I’d like to say I want to visit for the scenery. But, really it is just so I can fit my hands around Thor’s bulging biceps.

9. Neverland – Who doesn’t want to go flying with Peter Pan and drop-kick some mean ole nasty pirates?

8. Jurassic Park – I’d love to see a dinosaur up close and personal. Once I lived to tell the tale that is!

7. Middle Earth – My youngest son is obsessed with the ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’ movies, so I’d lose major brownie points if I didn’t include Middle Earth in my list of fictional places to visit. Callum would have to come with me of course.

6. Forks – Okay, so I know it’s actually a real place (somewhere in northwest Washington) but I want to visit the fictional Twilight world so that I can dispense with Bella, and Edward can turn me into a vampire instead.

5. Avatar – I’ve always wondered what my Na’vi avatar would look like, and I totally want to have a hippy-60’s style-singing session under the Tree of Light.

4. Planet Novo – Getting to hang out with my own fictional characters, in the fictional world I created, would be seriously awesome. And I’ve always dreamed of going into space.

3. Narnia – These books were some of my favorites when I was a kid, and it was great being able to read them to my own children. Narnia is a classic fantasy land, and I want to hang out with talking animals, warrior rats and Mr. Tumnus. Plus Prince Caspian is hot.

2. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry – I visited Harry Potter World in Universal Orlando with my family, and I’ve also seen the Harry Potter Tour in New York. I just can’t get enough of this fantastic world that J.K Rowling has created. Getting a chance to properly visit Hogwarts Castle, and to play Quidditch with Harry Potter is the stuff dreams are made of.

1. Star Wars Universe – I am a massive Star Wars fan, and I love all the worlds George Lucas created in this universe. My trip would have to include a spin in the Millenium Falcon and a major make-out session with Luke Skywalker. Then my life would be complete.

So there you have it! What about you? Are any of your favorites included? What fictional world would you most like to visit?

 

 

It started with a dream

A few people have asked me how I came up with the idea for my novel, True Calling, so I thought I’d share my story with you.

It all started with a dream. Just not my own.

The funny thing about dreams is that they’re so obscure to the point of not being real that we tend to overlook them and the potential message they’re trying to deliver. Or at least I know that’s what I used to do. But I’ve had cause to think about dreams a lot lately and I truly wonder whether our dreams have the power to change our lives (and I’m not just speaking metaphorically).

I first got hooked on the Twilight series in November 2009. My sister-in-law, an avid YA reader, had been raving about the books for the best part of the previous year. And unless you lived under a rock or on a different planet there was no way of avoiding the phenomenon. The first Twilight movie had surfaced in 2008 and you couldn’t avoid Robert Pattinson or Kristen Stewart in the midst of such obsession, they were everywhere. I paid zero attention to the hype: Not interested, far too old for all that malarkey, vampires meh… Then I came into the sitting room one day and my eldest son was watching Twilight on Sky movies and I got instantly sucked in (excuse the pun). Therein was the start of my obsession with Twilight, which would later translate into an obsession with YA fiction and teen movies in general.

So, I hear you ask, what’s this got to do with dreams? I took to my obsession—as I do with everything else in my life—with total dedication and determination, and I had a hunger for all things Twilight. I wanted to find out everything about the series and the author, so I checked out Stephenie Meyer’s website and (we’re finally getting to the dream part) I watched an interview with her where she explained about the now infamous dream that started it all off. In case you’re one of those people who was living under a rock or on a different planet, she apparently had a dream one night of a vampire boy with sparkly skin and a human girl in a meadow. She was so transfixed by the dream that the next day she started writing a vampire-human love story and Twilight was borne. Or so the story goes. When I heard this, I was instantly intrigued.

Now I know that a lot of authors have said they were inspired by Stephenie Meyer—she’s a very inspirational woman—but I think the affect she had on me was slightly different.

I wondered a lot about her ‘meadow dream’; probably more than was normal to. Who sent her that dream? And why? And did someone (or something) plant that seed knowing full well that it would lead her on a path to a significant life-altering experience? And what are dreams anyway? A malfunction of our brain? An unconscious message from our inner selves? A medium for receiving messages from others? My thoughts jumbled around like this for weeks, and my idea started to grow from this silent analysis.

So I started writing my own story, and as I did, I thought more and more about the power of dreams. And was it the dream itself that fuelled the life-changing moment, or the actions of the person receiving the dream? How many of us have had dreams that we dismissed outright without a second thought? And what if those dreams had been given to us for a purpose, and we had failed to recognize and grasp that opportunity?

And as someone who didn’t actually often dream that much herself; I started paying more attention when I did. I began to keep a notebook and pen by my bed, and would fervently scribble in it when I woke up after a particularly vivid dream. Then there were other nights, where ideas for my book came thick and fast during the witching-hour. Now I wouldn’t call these incidents ‘dreams’ in the real sense of the word, but I repeatedly experienced ‘light-bulb’ moments as I drifted from a conscious to an unconscious state of mind.

That got me thinking about the creative mind and whether there is a connection between dreams and creativity?  Why is it that when we quiet the brain there is often a tendency for a flurry of thoughts to swarm our mind?

So I did the next logical thing: I googled it, and discovered a whole world on the internet devoted to dreams, their meaning, common dream themes, how to decipher same. It was only then that I realized how big of a deal dreams are and how fascinated people are by them.

As I considered all of this, the ‘dream’ theme within my book became the pivotal force driving the development of my plot and characterization. And I’d love to tell you more, but I can’t, for fear of inadvertent spoiler alerts. It’s sufficient to say that the dreams in my novel, True Calling, are powerful and impactful, but they’re not always the sum of what they appear to be.

In my most-recent inner debate, I’ve thought about that other definition of dreams. The notion that dreams are aspirational and that if we are determined enough, and work hard enough, and possess the utmost self-confidence and self-belief, that we can turn those dreams into reality.

Then I realized that I had come full circle. And I thought wouldn’t it be amazing if my (non-literal) dream did come true. And all the more so because I have been writing about dreams, and it was musing about someone else’s dream that set me on that path. Only time will tell I guess!

Dreams are still a mystery, in every sense of the word.

So that’s the story of how I came to write the True Calling series! What about you? Have you ever had a really bizarre dream that set you on a particular path? Or have you ever had a dream that you ignored, and then wished you hadn’t? Or did someone else’s dream inspire you like it did me? I’d love to hear your dream stories!