Thursday, March 29, 2012

X Marks the Spot

Today's Room For Debate piece in the New York Times on YA fiction draws me out of my hibernation. Evidently there's a mystery about why adults read young adult fiction. Or, better yet (he said gleefully, cracking his knuckles and sharpening knives), whether adults should read YA fiction.

Here's why I think YA fiction is so popular:

It's good.

I read like a fat man eats. No, a fat man in a cartoon: with a gusto and speed bordering on hysteria. I've read trash, classics, cereal boxes, brilliance, garbage, forgettable bestsellers, life-changing bestsellers, on and on and on. If most adult fiction leaves me unmoved, or thinking about our paper towel situation and whether I should add them to the grocery list right away or go check the supply first, and when am I going to do something about the siding on our house because that would be more interesting than pushing through the rest of this book ... well, that's not my fault.

Some people have written that since teenagers often have more drama, more intense emotion in their lives, literature with teen characters tends to reflect that, creating a more engaging reading experience. Makes sense: I like engaging books. I don't read to be bored.

Or that because YA literature is "under the radar" (how can this be? well, never mind) that authors can take more risks. Risky style, risky stories, risky characters, risky conflicts. Sure, that may be too.

Or that, as Lev Grossman pointed out in today's article, since many adults were also teenagers at some point, it's not a stretch to read books that were "supposed" to be for younger versions of our current, old selves. Makes sense. How many adults limit themselves to adult contemporary music because now they're all grown up and can't rock out like when they were teenagers?

And for the notion that adults "should" read only adult literature? Hell, I can't even type it without laughing. Next?

I follow good writing and good story. Wherever it leads and wherever I find it. I find it more in YA literature than anywhere else. If you want buried treasure don't go looking in file cabinets. Get ye a map and a shovel and find that sandy island where X marks the spot. Don't waste your time reading trash; there's plenty of it. Find the treasure: it's out there.

1 comment:

Babs said...

I certainly agree with your side of the debate. Like you, I'm now at the point that if I'm reading an adult literature book and it doesn't move me, or puts me to sleep, then it's tossed even after the first 2 chapters. Hard to do when you've paid $16 for it, but that's what public libraries are for, I guess.