Much of the YA literature I find on the market today is well-written with well-developed, complex plots and characters. I don’t find that the endings are always wrapped up neatly, but that much of the time they invite questions, discussions, and wonderings. Reading a YA novel as an adult brings a different, more mature, perspective. I never feel, as stated in the article, that I am asked to abandon that perspective, but rather to juxtapose my thinking with that of a younger reader. This, in fact, can bring a richer reading experience. Some of my best book discussions have been with students who bring a variety of perspectives to books and characters based on age, gender, and background.
My reading diet is varied, and I think a lot of what I read boils down to purpose. In the past few months I read Eleanor and Park, Outliers, The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp, and The Goldfinch. Sometimes I read books to review and possibly recommend to younger readers, or sometimes because a friend recommended it or the title intrigued me. Sometimes a book allows me to connect with a student. Last summer my ten year old nephew was visiting. John is a quiet, somewhat shy boy who can be hard to converse with. I noticed that he was reading a Percy Jackson book. A few months prior to that visit I had read a few of those books because
- I heard Rick Riordan speak at IRA.
- I am interested in Greek mythology.
- Several students I was working with were reading the series.
Belonging to a book group has exposed me to many books and genres I normally would not have read (and yes, we read YA also). We are long-time friends who have been through a lot together – births, deaths, serious illnesses, divorce, marriage. When one of our members was going through a divorce she recommended the book Outlander, a somewhat-explicit romance novel. This type of book was a new experience for us, but it was the escape she needed at that point in her life. We didn’t make her feel embarrassed for suggesting it, but rather we went along for the ride that helped her through a difficult point in her life. It was the right book at the right time, and we were there to support her.
I disagree that teens will turn away from YA when they see that so many adults are reading it. In fact, I think they may be drawn to YA simply because adults are reading it. Kids are often in such a hurry to get to “adult” novels that they barely scratch the surface of YA and end up missing out on wonderful books that can help them find their place in the world and discover who they are. But if they sense an appreciation of this genre from the adults they value in their lives, they may be more inclined to give it a go.
Books should move us in some way. They should make us laugh, cry, think, feel, or understand no matter what the level or genre. So let’s not ever feel embarrassed for the type of book that does just that for us.