After reading an article implying adults should be ashamed to read Young Adult (YA) literature, I’ve spent days thinking about my reply. I’m aware others have commented, blogged, and debated the point to death. Yet, I feel the need to add my opinion and I take far longer than most to generate a reply. Blame it on my overly thoughtful nature.
I began this post multiple ways and deleted them all. First, I began listing my expertise regarding analyzing literature and denouncing the qualifications of the article’s author. That sounded too snooty.
Then I began reminiscing on a graduate class where we debated the virtues (or lack of) Twilight and Harry Potter. I couldn’t segue into my main point…deleted.
I decided to let my thoughts flow, to let them fall unheeded onto the page…or throw them onto the screen.
While I won’t get into excruciating detail regarding that one graduate class (been there, done that, deleted), I will at least summarize. Sometimes graduate classes tangent into other topics of discussion. On that particular night, we started discussing YA literature.
The classes main topic of discussion in that specific tangent happened to be Twilight. Half of the class panned it while the other half (mostly high school English teachers) defended it.
Twilight cannot compare to Harry Potter in style and research. I defended it on the basis of it’s supernatural ability to coax reluctant readers to read. (Upon retrospect, I regret my defense since it romanticized abusive relationships).
High School teens weren’t the only ones reading the overly popularized tripe, adults enjoyed the book too. Personally, I found it highly easy to read.
I was desperate for any reading that wasn’t assigned, a book where the story would carry me away. Something less intellectually cumbersome. Any book would do as long as I didn’t have to analyze it to death.
While the Twilight prose were atrocious, the flow was surprisingly smooth. Twilight’s books are thick, yet the style of writing allowed experienced readers to speed through it and not miss a single word.
Judging from my own perspective, I imagine that YA books have the ability to do that for busy adults. Who has time to read a complicated Shakespearian text and postulate on the metaphor or background of every other line? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Shakespeare immensely. Yet, it’s not exactly convenient pleasure reading for the adult on-the-go.
Conversely, YA literature offers the ease of reading with a themed metaphor and thoughtful topics everyone can ponder after the book is finished. The subject matter of most YA books doesn’t relate to only teens. Adults can relate to the themes. Despite what most teens think, adults remember what it was like to be their age.
YA books are highly escapist. Let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to escape the real world with its bills, responsibilities, and never ending pointless charades? Adults get to place themselves in characters who are unapologetically themselves, or characters attempting to find a personality in an ever increasing complicated world. These books simplify the world and highlights its confusing trivialities.
These books can be used as a basis for meaningful conversation. Parents might like these books because it gives them a topic of conversation with their children. It’s neutral ground between the boundaries of teen and adult understanding.
Discussions involving YA books are gateway discussion topics to other nonliterary related topics. Perhaps these books help parents to broach topics they are uncomfortable discussing with their children, or these books are used as starting points to serious and meaningful conversations.
As the author of the aforementioned adult shaming article postulated that YA literature would replace literary fiction, that is not true. I think of well written YA literature like Fault in Our Stars as literary fiction “starter books.”
There are adults who only read YA books and I agree that they should try to broaden their reading criteria. What about the many adults who rarely touches a book because they hate to read? Like me, they were probably shell shocked from the forced reading of John Steinbeck’s The Pearl in high school and assumed that all literary fiction followed the same drab pattern.
Who would want to read incredibly mind-numbing, well written, and excruciatingly detailed books? I respect Earnest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, and William Faulkner yet their books are hard to digest for most readers.
Kelly Creagh’s Nevermore has an Edgar Allen Poe theme showcasing Poe’s other works besides The Raven (not that the poem isn’t awesome). Let’s not forget the plethora of YA books using the Shakespearian Romeo and Juliet theme.
In retrospect, panning most genres and denouncing them as trash is an old song. I shouldn’t be surprised that YA books are held in such regard by traditionalists who desperately cling to their literary fiction. Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Steampunk are still regarded in most traditionalist circles as junk adults should be ashamed to read.
Instead of complaining about the ruination of literary fiction, we should be celebrating the diverseness of books, that there is a book for everyone if they bother to look. Most books light our imagination, insight healthy passion, and encourage positive unconventional thinking.
Books give us a multitude of perspectives helping readers to cultivate an open-mind and an acceptance of others. If a book has a positive effect on readers, does the genre really matter?