Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y is for Young Adult Fiction

Reading: Back when I was choosing on my topics for the A-Z Challenge, Y was one of the first I decided on.  I love Young Adult (YA) fiction.  Then, I read an article about which my cousin-in-law Jo had tweeted and that solidified my decision.  You may have read the article by Joel Stein in The New York Times in which he opined that "Adults Should Read Adult Books".  It's a short column, part of the opinion page "Room for Debate" and of course I understand that it was written to inspire discussion.  And so I will discuss.
My first issue with his opinion is that he has not read any of the books he dismisses because they are for children.  Certainly I have grumbled about reading certain books (the first Harry Potter book, Twilight, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, for example), but then I READ them and could express an informed opinion about them (loved it, hated it, hated it).  One of my favorite things about book club is that we read a wide range of books, and that I attempt to read them all (of the nearly 170 books we have read over the past 15 years, I have not completed approximately 7 of them).  Sometimes I have discovered a new favorite which was disguised as something I was not interested in initially. 
Mr. Stein acknowledges that adults occasionally watch Pixar movies or play video games and his opinion is that is okay because those don't require much from our brains, but that books are one of our few chances to learn.  The implication here is that we can only learn from adult books.  My response to this is that I have learned a whole lot more from reading Harry Potter than I have from reading The Horse Whisperer.  The vocabulary including Latin, sentence structure, plot lines and details, references to mythology and folklore in the Harry Potter books are all more complex and challenging to my brain than a story about a woman who has an affair with a cowboy for no good reason, has sex all night long and then gets up on a horse the next day.  I find the possibility that wizards exist more likely than that.  (That is my official synopsis of Horse Whisperer, by the way.)
He states that he will read The Hunger Games when he finishes "the previous 3,000 years of fiction written for adults".  I just feel sorry for him that he will be reading Nicholas Sparks novels when there is such a richly diverse, well-written world of young adult and children's fiction for him to read.  Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order.
The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock (I liked this one infinitely better than her sister's book Eat, Pray, Love)
The Giver by Lois Lowry and the companion book Gathering Blue
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Godless by Peter Hautman
and of course such classics as The Catcher in the Rye, A Separate Peace, The Chronicles of Narnia series, Lord of the Flies, and more.

Many YA books (and even those written for children and tweens) are written at a higher reading level (and therefore more challenging) than the vast majority of "adult" books.  I acknowledge that there are different reasons for reading: for learning, for pleasure, for passing the time.  And depending on why you are reading, one book may be a better choice at that time.  If I am laying on the beach and relaxing, I want what I call "brain candy" meaning something that I don't have to think too much about.  We don't always read to be challenged or to learn, of course, but let us not dismiss YA books because they are "for children".

What are some of your favorite non-adult books and what do you love about them?

Until we read again,


Teri (Mom) said...

Here I am with my comment again. I would rather someone read the cereal box at the breakfast table than not read at all. I would rather someone read a comic book than not read at all. There should be no distinction between YA and adult, good books are good books. It's all marketing and money. Read what you wish...and lots of it!

Ann said...

Yeah, what she said!

Your mom is awesome.

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