Why So Many Grown-ups Like Reading Young Adult (YA) Books

MARTINAPHOTOGRAPHY / FLICKR
MARTINAPHOTOGRAPHY / FLICKR

For decades, adults have enjoyed books intended for teenagers and adolescents. But during this year’s leisurely summer reading season, the adult inclination toward young adult (YA) lit became a hotly debated topic.

Ruth Graham sparked a fury with her article in Slate claiming adults should be embarrassed to read juvenile fiction. A New York Times article by A.O. Scott touched on Graham’s arguments as it explored the death of adulthood in American culture. If Scott is to be believed, there is a connection between the death of cultural adulthood and the rising love of YA by adults. He argues our literature choices indicate our culture’s increasingly infantilization. Or to quote my mother, “Most people just operate on the level of a teenager.”

But is this a fair generalization? Can something else besides our immaturity explain why some of us (Christian adults, in particular) love this genre?

YA books are generally geared toward children ages 12 and older. Teen books, often lumped in with YA, are usually aimed at readers 14 and older. Many in this age range like to “read up;” preteens in particular are fascinated by the lives of young adults a few years older than they are.

People assume that those of us on the other end of the spectrum—who love reading about protagonists who are younger than we are—like to “read down.” But rather than an indication of intellectual or emotional immaturity, perhaps it is something else that attracts some of us who are Christian adults to this genre.

Through the 1980s, the YA genre was much smaller. Growing up, I was fed on classical literature that would likely be considered YA today: Little Women, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, A Wrinkle in Time, and The Secret Garden. It wasn’t until the Harry Potter series broke the YA genre wide open in the late ‘90s that YA became known for attracting a wider swath of readers, including young adults and adults alike.

Around that time, I began to write YA stories consistently. My love of reading YA is tied closely with my love of writing YA. The arguments lamenting the death of our intellectual and cultural adulthood fail to mention this aspect: Almost all YA books are written by adults. When we read YA, we’re not so much reading a child’s perspective as we are reading an adult’s recollection of what it is or was like to be a child.

Could that mean that these titles aren’t as immature as the critics think? As we delve into YA books, we aren’t living in the minds of children. Instead, we are in dialogue with another adult, grasping for something in our memory. I believe what draws many Christians to YA is a longing to steep ourselves in something that we have forgotten or left behind.

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: Christianity Today
Christiana Peterson

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