Why I Read YA

Owen reading
Owen digging into Fracture

A recently published article bashing YA as a lesser form of literature has been making the rounds, as have numerous rebuttals defending YA. My favorite is by Rob Moran, titled Men Should Be Able to Read YA Too, where he states, “…Gordon seems to view reading as a means to an end, rather than an activity in its own right, as if we all read books as some sort of self-help process, hoping to gain some miraculous understanding of what it means to be a fully-formed human functioning in the world, rather than just, you know, valuing language and communication and the joy of watching a glorious sentence unfold itself across a page and pull you into its world.”

I started reading YA several years ago and it’s gotten to the point that it’s almost all I read. As I state on my Facebook page, “It’s been many years since I was a teenager, but I still love the idea of first loves, new adventures, and discovering who you are.” The thought of reliving my teenage years leaves me quivering in a corner, and I’m grateful to have escaped before the internet and the myriad of other terrors that didn’t seem to be around in the early 90s became commonplace. I skated between the popular and the not-so-popular crowds, but I spent a lot of time feeling very misunderstood (I blame my advanced development of sarcasm), something that teenagers today most certainly still experience. I’m fascinated by this new (to me) teenage world and the challenges teenagers face while going about their everyday lives.

And if you don’t believe me, read what people had to say at the launch party for Fracture last week when I asked them to share why they read YA. These are all educated, intelligent, mature adults (well, most of them are), and while their reasons are varied, none of the reasons mention being “asked to abandon the mature insights into that perspective that they (supposedly) have acquired as adults.”

Here’s what they had to say:

A Book is a Book

I think it’s more that I love books in general. YA is the same as everything else – if it’s a good book, it’s a GOOD BOOK, in my opinion.

It just good clean entertainment!

Teachers & Parents

I teach young adults. I like to keep up on what they read.

Helps me keep in touch with what my students are reading!

Young Adult reading helps me stay in touch with my kids who are YA. I need to stay tuned in as a parent. It’s good stuff too.

Teenager at Heart

Makes me feel young again! Sometimes it’s a good thing, others not. Usually just takes me back, makes me happy, helps me see how far I’ve come. Plus usually makes for a good read!

I once heard an editor say that MG is about a kid finding their place in the family, and YA is about the main character finding their place in society. I think I am permanently stuck in a YA novel. Actually, I really do like the self-discovery of YA, though I don’t go in for adult memoirs that are about self-discovery. Maybe it’s the positivity of the main character learning their life lessons with their whole life still ahead of them.

YA tends to have strong plots to keep readers of that age interested. My ADD brain loves that extra incentive to pay attention!

I am very immature in the first place so young adult works for me.

It’s GOOD

Raw emotion. YA allows for it, usually more generously. A lot of YA empowers teen girls too, with great leading ladies.

I love the strong, raw emotions in YA! And how realistic and flawed the characters are.

It’s got great potential for empathy and inspiration for that reader.

I think there’s an honesty in YA that can get lost in adult books. It’s more introspective.

I guess I like YA because I like living vicariously through that age. I had to be a grown up by the time I was 14 so I missed out on the parties, proms, dating, hanging with friends, and teenaged responsibilities. So YA gives a little of those experiences back to me.

I love YA because it reminds me so much of what is good about us. A time when we have so much hope and believe in the possibilities that are ahead of us. We haven’t become jaded yet and think the world is ours for the taking. There’s a sort of immortality in our thinking and actions at that age.

Entertainment Weekly posted an interesting spin on well-known “classics” with their covers re-imagined as YA, the category they’d be placed in if they were published now. Jason Booher, art director of Blue Rider Press, created the redesigns and explains the reasoning behind the changes. Go look!

A key thing to remember, whether you read thrillers or romance or strictly sci-fi: most of these genres were created by the publishing industry as a way to organize and sell books. Some of the best love stories I’ve read take place in a murder mystery, while some of the most suspenseful tales were literary fiction. A good story is a good story and it shouldn’t matter where the book is located in the store. Frankly, if you’re too embarrassed to shop outside a “respectable” genre, order it online. Or better yet, download it. I think the surge in YA reading (and other “less serious” genres) could also be attributed to the fact that no one can tell what you’re reading when it’s an ebook.

To finish, another quote from Moran:

Personally, I wouldn’t trust anyone who claims they weren’t touched by a thoughtfully-written novel that pushes you head-first into the romantic and mortal travails of a young girl with terminal cancer, but whatever – if you spot me tearily revisiting it on the bus anytime soon, try not to point and laugh.

Laugh away, those who judge. I’ll be over here reading another fabulous book.

About Melanie Hooyenga

Writer. Designer. Jock. Reader. Wife. Puppy-Mama. SCBWI member since 2015.

2 Comments

  1. I think what pissed me off the most about the Slate article was the dripping disdain for anything other than literary fiction — written for your own age group, of course. Far be it from me to disagree with someone who thinks Twilight is trashy, but in the context of her article — and in lumping it together with Divergent — she shows how much she looks down on those of us who happen to like paranormal/horror/fantasy fiction. She does it again with detective stories later in the article.

    All in all, she may not have meant to sound “snobbish and joyless and old,” but that’s exactly what it sounds like she is. And I would not want to spend five minutes in her company.

    • I agree. If I’ve learned anything as a writer it’s that there are well-written and poorly-written books in every genre — even literary fiction. If we declared anyone who has a different interest than us unworthy it’d be a very boring world.

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