Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Why Adults Read YA Fiction (Thanks, John Green)

Over the years, I have caught a lot of flak for reading primarily YA fiction.  After all, people argue, I'm a smart lady... and I'm in my 30s.  Should I just grow up already?  Read some actual adult books?

I try to explain away my addiction by stating that since I work with teens (first as a high school English teacher, now as a teen librarian), it's important to me professionally to me to keep up with teen literature so I can converse with my students/patrons about what's new and popular and their field of literature.

While this is true, it is also somewhat of an excuse.  It's somewhat of a a "chicken and egg" situation.  I kind of chose these professions because they allow me to keep reading YA lit.  Because honestly, I would devour teen lit no matter what I was doing professionally.  And in the times that I've been a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom, for those of you not up on the lingo), I've devoured it in even greater quantities.  Because YA literature is just good stuff.  I love it in a way that I could never, never love adult literature.  And while I receive a lot of mockery for that decision (primarily from my loving husband, because he's the one who sees me curled up on the couch the most often, but also from many other adults who discover my addiction), I stand by my love.  And more than that, I form deep bonds with other adults who share that love.  Because they also have good taste in books, and we can talk for hours about the awesome things we've read.... but also because they, on a gut level, GET what it is that drives me to YA lit in the first place.  That love that I can't quite seem to articulate.

Well, lucky for me and all those other adult YA-lovers out there, the fabulous John Green has just published a quality article on why so many adults love young adult literature.... and why that it is TOTALLY LEGIT.  I knew there was a reason this guy was my favorite author.  I could just provide you with the link (which is, but the article is so stinking good and makes me feel so totally justified that I'm also going to copy and paste it here in its entirety.  No copyright infringement intended, just much praise to JG and his awesomeness.

Can You Get Too Old For YA Novels?

by John Green

The Hunger Games, Divergent, Pretty Little Liars--why do we devour young adult fiction well past our YA-years?  John Green, the best-selling author of The Fault in Our Stars, explains.

For me, writing a book is like a very long version of that childhood game Marco Polo. I sit alone in my basement for a few years saying, "Marco, Marco, Marco, Marco," and then finally the book comes out. And if I'm lucky, people start saying, "Polo!" When writing my novel The Fault in Our Stars, I always imagined those people would be teenagers. My books are for young adults, after all.
But in the weeks after The Fault in Our Stars was published in 2012, I heard from more and more proper adults. They told me their kids had given them the book or they'd read it in book club or their friends had recommended it. Suddenly, the vast majority of my readers were grown-ups.
Ever since, I've been thinking about why stories about teenagers resonate so much with us as adults. I've been a passionate adult reader of YA fiction for a decade, and what I find so compelling about the best YA fiction is its unironic emotional honesty. When you're a teenager, you're often doing so many important things for the first time — everything from falling in love to grappling with heartache and loss. You also begin to ask the big questions of humanness: What, if anything, is the meaning to all this? What are my responsibilities to myself and to others?
My favorite YA stories approach these questions directly and enthusiastically. Author Sarah Dessen writes wonderful love stories, but they also confront issues of abuse and divorce head-on. Laurie Halse Anderson's novels deal compellingly with eating disorders and sexual assault. Series like Veronica Roth's Divergent and Marie Lu's Prodigy may be set in dystopic futures, but they're honest and straightforward in their social analysis. They're not just beautiful stories, they're also useful ones.
It's not like we stop needing the comfort and help that a good story can bring when we graduate from high school. I am still looking for answers to questions about the meaning of life. I am still trying to fathom the wondrous strangeness of love. I am still trying to make my way through life despite heartache and loss. So yes, when I set out to write a novel about two young people living with cancer who fall in love with a book and then with each other, I was writing it for teenagers. But I was also writing it for my adult self — the one who wanted to know whether love really is stronger than death and who wanted to find hope and joy and humor amid hard times. Those desires know no age.
Reader or writer, we love stories about teenagers, because although they can be cynical about many things, they aren't cynical about love, hope, and the stuff that really matters, like the future. While I am profoundly glad I will never be a teen again, I am thrilled to read (and write) about them because, deep down, it's their enthusiasm and curiosity that we can all admire and wish to emulate long after we've reached proper adult status.

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