I was in the library browsing the young adult section when the librarian said, “That’s the young adult section, you know.”
Obviously I stopped passing for a young adult some time ago. It used to annoy me, always getting IDed for stuff: most notably when I was 27, trying to buy a glass of feijoa juice at a winery. (The drinking age in New Zealand is 18. BUT BUT BUT It was JUICE.)
“Oh, it’s far more offensive to be asked if you have a pensioner’s card,” my mother used to assure me, “especially when you DON’T”, and now that I’m never IDed for alcohol (nor JUICE) these days, I can finally see her point.
Back to the library situation, it wasn’t by accident that I was lurking in the young adult section. I happen to enjoy good YA books. By good, I mean ‘young adult books which appeal to my own sense of excellence’.
Unlike some of my adult friends I’m no Twilight fan (for those of you new to this blog). I’m no Harry Potter fan, either. I read the first and got halfway through the second before realising I wasn’t engaging with it. I was a huge fan of Enid Blyton’s (rather outdated) fantasy stories as a kid, and part of me wishes Joanne Rowling’s series had come out 15 years earlier, when I may well have lapped them up.
I ordered myself a whole stack of YA books for my birthday this year (the surest way to receive wanted gifts) and I’m still getting through them. I could have stayed up all last night reading Peter Cameron’s Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You, but when you’re 33 you can’t stay up all night like you used to… not without repercussions.
So, why do adults read books about kids and young adults? There’s no mystery, really. Below, some links to explain it better than I ever could.
YA lit has a freshness that I really enjoy, and it rarely gets bogged down in its own self-importance. YA lit is also mostly free of the melancholy, nostalgia, and yearning for the innocent days of childhood that I find so tedious in adult literary fiction.
Age descriptions are just marketing tools.
“Our emotions don’t really change,” says David Levithan. “Issues of identity and belonging and finding your way in the world are new when you’re a teen, but they never actually go away.”
- David Levithan, from Not Just For Teens: A 35 Going On 13 Special.
Dr Louise Joy, a Cambridge University academic, believes classic children’s books, and the work they inspire, attract older readers because they give them things they cannot find in their everyday lives, including direct communication, tasty home-cooked food, and tolerance towards eccentricity. The researcher claims such books represent a “symbolic retreat from the disappointment of reality”.
- Why do adults read children’s books? from The Independent.\
[YA], like other genres, allows for an escape from your own reality, as you become enmeshed in an exciting, fictional world. It features characters who are malleable and who grow into themselves during the course of the novel. It’s often fast-paced and exciting, using a style of prose that is engaging and easy-to-read. … And guess what, there are actual happy ending sometimes, woo hoo!
- Emlyn Chand, from the LWC blog.
Also interesting: Still Haunted By the Mean Girls?
There’s a grown woman on my tram openly reading a Sweet Valley High book!
1. Discussion group for adults who like YA books, over at Pudd’n Head Books.
2. Top 10 Young Adult Books That Adults Will Love, from Lit Reactor
3. It’s all kidlit now, and that’s just fine, from The Globe And Mail
4. Adults Are Devouring Kids’ Books For Good Reason from The Atlantic
5. There is a word to describe young adult/kidlit that appeals equally to adults. It is called ‘cross-under’. See: The Fall Book Preview of Cross-under Reads from The Atlantic
6. The Mass Appeal of YA Fiction from Sky Blue Mission