There’s been a bit of an uproar about a recent article on Slate about how grownups should be embarrassed to read young adult literature. But if you’ve been a part of the vibrant, thriving community of adults who these books for long, you know this is nothing new. There are all kinds of click-bait articles written with the intention of shaming the (mostly women) readers who enjoy books with teen characters and coming of age stories, whether they are poignant and realistic or dystopian drama.
Confession: I used to be one of those people.
I thought I was way too cool to read books marketed to teens when I was in high school. It’s true that young adult wasn’t such a thriving segment of the market then, and there was much choice and variety. But really, I was just a literary snob.
It wasn’t until I had finished grad school and my husband took a class on teaching young adult literature and was assigned to read what would become the worldwide sensation Twilight that I picked up my first young adult title aside from the two I’d read (and enjoyed) as a teen (Hard Love and Perks of Being a Wallflower). “You know how you like Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Maybe you should try this,” he said, so one night I did.
And you know what? Reading was fun again. After years of capital-L literature and dense, academic nonfiction, I’d sort of fallen out of love with reading. But here was this moody, angst-ridden teen drama that I read in one sitting.
Yes, I knew it wasn’t great prose. And I could see some problematic elements, and discussed these issues with other feminist women my age (who also couldn’t but it down).
But I decided not to feel guilty for enjoying still enjoying it.
I sometimes read “serious” books for adults (and some not-so-serious books for adults, too). But mostly I read YA. I could easily just say that I do it “for my job” since I select the titles that the library adds to its young adult collection, but the truth is, I love YA. And I’m definitely not the only adult who has discovered the great stories sitting on the shelves in the Teen Zone.
Still, there are interesting questions about the growing popularity of of books marketed to teens with adult audiences that warrant discussion. How does a book earn the YA designation? Do authors intend for the books they write to be marketed to teens, or is that decision made by the publisher? Is YA a genre or a category? Why do grown ups want to read about teens, anyway?
We’ll be discussing all this and more with young adult authors Tessa Gratton, Bethany Hagen, Natalie Parker, and Mary O’Connell at Signs of Life Gallery this Monday, June 23rd, at 7 pm.
In addition to their works, here’s a list of YA books that might appeal to those not who are quite as young as they used to be. Remember, librarians don’t judge people for their reading habits, and you’re welcome to check out books from the Teen Zone no matter what your age. Really, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about.
-Molly, Collection Development