Several people in the "whatcha readin’ " threads regularly report that they’re reading this Young Adult (YA) novel or that, which has made me curious: What’s the appeal of YA literature for you? What do you get out of a YA novel that you don’t get from other kinds of reading?
I’ve been meaning to ask Delphica if her job involves YA lit (only I’m afraid I might have already asked and forgotten the answer).
For me, I just remember how great it used to feel to go to the library as a kid and leave with a stack of books I could hardly carry. I don’t see any reason to deny myself good kids’ books just because they hadn’t been written back then!
Sometimes I look at the adult bestseller list and find it full of books about bankers and lawyers and serial killers, and wonder why people put themselves through that when they could be reading about mermaids or time travel or sixth graders.
I also get to recommend and accept recommendations from my kids. We all got to experience the Lemony Snicket books together, and it was wonderful!
Outside of a lack of really explicit sex, I generally don’t notice any difference between the two, at least where I live. It’s not that I get anything special out of it; it’s that the distinction between YA and not-YA seems nearly nonexistent.
What Der Trihs says is also true. I don’t find a lack of quality in YA books, if anything is lacking it might be graphic sex or gore or animal abuse, which is okay by me.
My dream job is to be a librarian. So it makes sense to read YA literature, as young adults are a big focus for libraries.
Not all YA lit is any good, but when I get tired of looking for a romance novel that I haven’t already read, which doesn’t feature vampires or werewolves, and has the right balance of optomisim and realism, I’ll check out YA lit.
A good story is a good story, and I’m up for tackling anything at whatever reading level.
I don’t have a policy against reading YA literature, but it doesn’t present itself to me: I don’t have kids, and in neither the library and the bookstore does it occur to me to look in that section. For those who do so regularly – have you just continued to read YA books all along, or did you return to them at some point, and why?
I used to work with kids and I still find it interesting to see what entertainment people aim at them. Do they dumb things down? Try to hard to appear “cool?” What concepts do artists think kids are prepared to tackle and at which age?
One of the reasons Phillip Pullman’s *His Dark Materials *series impressed me is because it had no problem preaching an anti-organized religion message to kids. I feel that would have been unheard of even twenty years before they were published.
Another impressive YA book was Suzanne Collin’s* The Hunger Games*. A book about kids stalking and killing other kids, as part of a giant government-sponsored game.
There are definitely some YA books out there that give kids the benefit of being smart, savvy, and sophisticated.
I just read an advance copy of Catching Fire, the sequel to Hunger Games. Feel free to envy me! You won’t know what happens until September!
I do read a good deal of YA lit–I enjoy it and I’m a librarian and like to keep up. I subscribe to a couple of book review blogs that mostly do YA, so I always have a list of titles I want to read. I read a lot of other stuff too.
I do envy you! And I kinda want you to spoil it all to pieces for me…
Yup. It’s what I don’t get in YA fiction that’s most appealing.
Grups who disregard a book just because it has the YA label are missing out on some good stuff. Kids read from our shelves – why shouldn’t we read from theirs?
Well, one appeal is being able to share something with your kids.
I agree with a lot of the comments already posted. ( Except I Didn’t like the Philip Pullman trilogy. I know, I’m the only one.) I’ll read anything I come across that seems appealing to me even if it’s marketed to young kids or teens.
As to why YA is appealing: Usually no gratuitous sex or rape. Don’t get me wrong - I like sex, but you’d be surprised how well a story can be told without focusing on the explicit details of mating.
More importantly, YA books are usually well-edited. In comparison I find most mainstream, adult, whatever you call it, fiction is way too long. A good YA author knows how to say things well without overwriting. There are exceptions, of course, but a good YA book is usually tightly written.
Hmm. I’ll try to think of more reasons besides the fact that they are handy are the high school library where I work.
Also the nostalgia aspect. I love looking back on stuff I used to read and remembering it, and seeing if it’s held up.
And some children’s books are very witty/well-written…more so than a lot of adult fiction. Louise Fitzuigh (she of Harriet the Spy and the Long Secret) has written some seriously funny stuff.
I like YA stuff because of the lack of explicit sex (I don’t have anything against sex–I just don’t really like reading about it in excruciating detail) and also because the plots seem to be less convoluted and therefore better suited to be read in small chunks (which is usually how I read things–a chapter or two, leave it for several days, then another chapter or two).
Also, it seems to me like the whole YA genre has gotten more “mature” since when I was a teenager back in the 80s. They aren’t afraid to discuss subjects that would have been taboo (or at least heavily frowned upon) for kid books previously, and in a much more matter-of-fact, ‘yeah, kids really do this’ sort of way than the old “Afterschool Special” model (Oh noes! He’s masturbating! We must stage an Intervention!)
Most of my reading lately has been either horror novels or Sherlock Holmes stuff, but I’ll pick up a YA novel when the subject matter catches my eye, and enjoy it.
They tend to be easy, consumable reads. Often as well or better written than mass market paperbacks for adults, but not as dense as adult “literature.”
Most of what I read is adult literature - but I have a friend who is a YA librarian who recommends books.
There’s a lot of really great imaginative new fantasy literature out there in the young adult section. Adult fantasy is pretty shitty.
Besides what others have said, sometimes after a couple of dense adult books I just feel like reading something effortless.
‘Effortless’ adult books exist, of course, but are usually trash. YA can be both interesting and non-challenging.
Ha, okay the real answer is that I enjoy it. I read YA as well as more standard kidlit.
I have a kind of fake answer, which is that I volunteer as an ESL teacher and it’s great to have books that appeal to teens to recommend … but honestly, it’s because I like it. If I didn’t like it, the teens could find their own darn books.
It’s hard to explain why, it’s like I never grew out of the habit of checking out the kid/teen section at the library. (I also like to read history, mysteries, and literary fiction which I mention in case anyone is worried I am living in some sort of Michael Jackson-esque delusional delayed childhood.)
There are some themes that come up a lot in books meant for adults that are just big yawn moments for me, like people who are having a mid-life crisis, or creepy stalkers, or weird sex-in-the-suburbs stuff.
(I have to edit this to echo winterhawk11 … I don’t have anything against sex, but as an adult, I actually have sex so reading about it at length seems repetitive and ho-hum. But I don’t actually go to wizard boarding school, so reading about that is fun and exciting.)
In some ways, I think kids are a tougher audience, so it’s a good litmus test if you have a good story AND can put it in a format that works with kids. Michael Chabon, whom I adore in general, wrote a kids book a few years back, and my reaction was “wow, poor guy thinks you can write a kids book by simply dumbing down a story.” Not his greatest moment, you know?
In a more academic way, I’ve always been very interested in how fiction shapes expectations for women, as I had devoured all those Sweet Sixteen type books when I was a kid, even though they were already out of date, and compared them to the popular YA books of my own time, those wacky problem novels of the 1970s. I still like keeping track of what messages - positive and negative - are being communicated about the roles of girls and women in current YA literature. (Of course, the same thing could be true for boys/men … but my particular interest was always girls/women.)
(well he’s back, I’m not wild about Philip Pullman either, so you’re not alone.)
I don’t have kids either, but I did return to youth fiction after college, first out of nostalgia – reading books I’d loved when I was younger (things like the Dark Is Rising sequence, the Earthsea trilogy and the Prydain Chronicles).
Some authors I like have also done youth fiction: Neil Gaiman springs to mind. I liked his adult stuff and so Coraline and The Graveyard Book were easy to pick up. Ditto that for Clive Barker and The Thief of Always.
My sister has three kids, and if I’m going to give them books, I like to have read them first to know what I am passing on. That brought me His Dark Materials and a few others.