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?