New York Magazine has a great selection of articles about one of the fastest-growing and most popular categories in publishing, the increasingly inaccurately-named Young Adult genre. Jen Doll writes about loving YA novels in her thirties, quoting my friend Sandie Angulo Chen.
Why do I, and other adults, read books for teens? In late August, YA author Malinda Lo asked adults to offer up their thoughts on the subject via Twitter, along with the hashtag #whyadultsreadYA. “I enjoy the immediacy of the stories and the sense of being at the beginning of the path of who you’ll become,” tweeted @sesinkhorn. “I love the intensity of 1st time experiences, experimentation, & growth that we’re told to stop doing as adults,” added @sarahockler. When I asked Sandie Angulo Chen, co-founder of the blog Teen Lit Rocks, for her theory, she said, “I think it’s about having that desire to connect with the you that’s still young, having that appreciation for that time in your life and wanting to reconnect with it.” And I have to agree; there’s an undeniable nostalgic lure. Reading YA, unlike consuming other forms of entertainment that are rooted in the past—movies that are remakes or origin stories of long-established comic-book heroes, for example—reminds me of the person I used to be rather than the things I used to be into.
There’s a kind of forward momentum, too, enabled by reading about characters for whom lives are still blank slates ready to be filled, compared to our own. We can measure ourselves against their choices and see how we succeeded; we can feel wiser than they are, knowing that what we did then turned out okay; we can also see for ourselves where there might still be room to improve. As dire as the situations may be—the worlds of these characters contain creatures bent on destroying them, untrustworthy adults, grave injustices, unrequited or deeply problematic love, abuse, bullying, suicide, murder, paralyzing self-doubt—there is the sense that things have the potential to get better.
It should be noted that I read plenty of things written by and meant for adults. I can stand tall as I show them off on the subway. But adult as they are, they don’t always captivate me the way YA does. Those are the books I read in a one-night rush, staying up until three in the morning to find out what happened, and when I do, sighing in pleasure because the heroine really does get the guy, the world has been saved, the parents finally understand, or there is at least the promise of things working out in the end. Adult books may be great literature, but they don’t make me feel the same way.
Emma Whitford writes about the growing influence of YA. Novels like The Hunger Games and The Twilight Saga have produced blockbuster film series, with Divergent poised to become the next big series. “Divergent” star Shailene Woodley will also play the lead in another movie based on a popular YA book, The Fault in Our Stars.
If you’re a YA fan, take a look at this great new fabric from Spoonflower, the pattern a collection of retro library check-out cards for classic YA books.