Good Reading : December January 2016
OPINION Publishers have traditionally assigned books to clearly defined categories – crime, romance, fantasy and so on. But many young adult (YA) books – originally targeted at readers aged 14 to 21 – have obstreperously refused to stay in their box and have found a ready market among curious adults; just think of all the grown-ups reading ‘Harry Potter’. EMILY MEREDITH puts the case for why adults should consider reading YA. There is no doubt that a huge number of adult readers have already discovered the joys of reading YA. A study in 2012 discovered that 55 per cent of readers of YA books are actually adults, and with the huge box-office successes of the movie adaptations of The Hunger Games and The Fault in Our Stars, this statistic can only have grown since then. But among many adult readers there is still a reluctance to admit that reading books wr itten for young people can be pleasurable. Young adult literature, with its digestible prose and plot-driven novels, reignites the excitement of discovering a compelling story. There is no need to dissect ponderous stylistic devices or analyse symbolism to make sense of the work. Only the story, the characters and the reader exist. The appeal of escapism is enticing. The positivity of young adult literature distracts readers from the horrors of the everyday world. YA novels still deal with serious themes – especially identity, sexuality and suicide – but an optimistic resolution is a fundamental element. The world may be filled with identity confusion, mental illness and discr imination, but there is always hope to be found in YA. The human condition is different for everyone and never remains the same, so themes concerning change, and coping mechanisms for that change, appeal to people of all ages and backgrounds. As young people are increasingly leaving important life decisions until their 30s, the cultural definition of ‘young adult’ WHY not ya? OPINION fantasy and so on. But many young adult (YA) books – originally targeted at readers aged 14 to 21 – have obstreperously refused to stay in their box and have found a ready market among curious adults; just think of all the GOOD READING DECEMBER 2015 / JANUARY 2016 37 has extended, highlighting how young adult literature remains relevant beyond the teenage years. The young adult genre is also a more welcoming space for new authors, as YA readers are more likely to take a r isk. When a young adult novel achieves a certain level of success, it is often repackaged for adults. In Australia, The Book Thief is marketed as an adult novel, but in the US and Europe, it is still being marketed as young adult fiction. The publication of adult covers for series such as ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘The Hunger Games’ has successfully drawn adults into the worlds of these stories. Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, rediscovered her love for children’s literature during the year that she devoted to finding happiness. She now descr ibes her children’s literature book club as one of the great joys of her life, which she only discovered when she stopped fearing she would be judged as childish. Young adult literature isn’t confined to any particular genre. Crime, fantasy, and contemporary can all be found on the shelves within YA. The stories are no less important or exciting than their explicitly adult-targeted counterparts just because they are written for teenagers. In fact, it makes them more enjoyable. The accessibility of young adult literature means you can rediscover the simple joy of a compelling story – and the simple joy of reading.