Friday, August 13, 2010

Yeah, I Read YA Fiction...and apparently a lot of other adults do, too

One of the most (slightly) embarrassing moments of my life was when I was interviewing for a teaching assistantship for my master's degree program. I was sitting in the office of one of the professors, surrounded by high-level academic books. He leaned back in his chair, made one of those little tents with his hands, and asked, "What do you read?" 

At that point, it would have been nice to be able to pull out the title of some high-level academic book or even one of the classic novels from my literature classes, but instead, I was honest and said, "Mainly children's books."

That answer didn't keep me from getting the assistantship, but I've always felt a little apologetic whenever I admit to my preference for young people's books.  But I guess I have nothing to be ashamed of, according to a recent article in the New York Times. The article says 47% of women aged 18-24 and 20% of women aged 35-44 buy and read YA books.  The article goes on to explain some of the appeal YA books have for older readers:

There’s a freshness there; it’s engaging.

Another of the experts quoted in the article says we middle-aged readers of YA books may be drawn to the "big type and short, plot-driven chapters" that make YA literature easier to read, since we are tired.

Ok, I'll admit it. I do like the fact that most YA books have shorter chapters and more focused plots and move along quickly. But I've decided that's not a sign of being intellectually shallow on my part. If I were reading Nancy Drew exclusively, maybe so.  But one thing I have really enjoyed about YA (and children's) novels are the deep ideas that lurk beneath the seemingly simple surface. I've read about gender issues and race issues and death and love and rebellion, among other things. I agree that maybe it is intellectually shallow of me to want to avoid some of the issues in adult novels, like child molestation and psychological torture (although there are YA novels that also deal with these issues, and I generally avoid those, as well - why make myself miserable?).

I suppose that's another reason I prefer YA literature - there's a sort of an innocent hopefulness to YA stories, or maybe it's a hopeful innocence. Either way, I like it. I like coming away from something I've read with a feeling that there is hope for the world, even if things don't work out the way I hoped they would.

No comments: