Books: Grown-Ups Who Read YA

So this Slate article is being much circulated on my Facebook feed. Most of my reader and writer friends are up in arms over it, but . . . at the risk of having things hurled at me . . . I kind of agree.

Not wholly. Provisionally.

I think it's sometimes fun to escape into YA books. But as an adult with real life adult dealings, I also spend time reading literature that features people my age and/or older. This is because I cannot, at my age, live on a steady diet of teenage drama and angst. And I sort of distrust anyone who can.

That sounds . . . stuck-up or something, but I'm only being honest. I've found in dealing with a wide swath of readers that adults who read only YA aren't generally equipped to deal with the pressures of adulthood, or else they actively avoid and deny them. These are the people who want to be young forever—sure, who doesn't?—and will in fact pretend it isn't happening. They foster drama in their own lives and make other adults miserable because, hey, get over it.

I get the draw of YA. While for a teen the stories speak to current experience, for an adult they're kind of a break. YA books are sweet, simple; the problems of the characters seem small compared to the responsibilities of adulthood. In a YA book, chances are there will be a solution, a happy ending, some hope. That's because young adults have their whole lives ahead of them and are looking for stories about others who also have their whole lives ahead of them. They can do anything, go anywhere. They are standing on a brink, all options open until they make a choice.

For adults, though, reality sets in. Choices have been made and our lives reflect those choices. Life single, life married, life married with kids, life divorced, life widowed . . . Jobs, bills, aging parents, grown siblings, illness. Adult literature is piled with all these for a reason: it's meant to speak to adult experience just as YA books speak to young adult experience. Here there are not always pat answers or endings. Here there is not always hope or satisfaction.

Look, I don't read a whole lot of "literature." I prefer genre stuff (mysteries, some romances). Because like a lot of adults, I don't necessarily want to read about people whose problems are just as bad or worse than mine. But I also don't read a lot of YA either. Because while I can enjoy the lightness of it, can even wax nostalgic for my first love or whatever, I can't entirely relate. Like Ruth Graham, author of the Slate article, I end up rolling my eyes at the page.

So. I think there's room for adults to read and enjoy young adult literature. I think there are a lot of good YA authors putting out a lot of great writing. But I think adults should not only read YA. Their brains should stretch past high school romances; their thoughts should be bigger and deeper than that. And maybe you'd argue, "So long as they're reading, who cares what they read?" Well, the writers of adult literature care. Though you'll notice many have gone and started YA series (looking at you, Jasper Fforde). Instead of encouraging adults to read YA, maybe we should encourage young adults to graduate to bigger and [sometimes] better books.

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