Why adults shouldn't be ashamed to read YA fiction - New York News

Why adults shouldn't be ashamed to read YA fiction

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By: Kandra Polatis, Deseret News

Attention readers 18 and older: Put down that last installment of the "Divergent" trilogy and stop crying over "The Fault in Our Stars."

That's what Ruth Graham at Slate wants. "Today's (young adult fiction), we are constantly reminded, is worldly and adult-worthy. That has kept me bashful about expressing my own fuddy-duddy opinion: Adults should feel embarrassed about reading literature written for children," wrote Graham.

"YA books present the teenage perspective in a fundamentally uncritical way. It's not simply that YA readers are asked to immerse themselves in a character's emotional life - that's the trick of so much great fiction - but that they are asked to abandon the mature insights into that perspective that they (supposedly) have acquired as adults," Graham said.

Alyssa Rosenberg at The Washington Post disagrees. She said Graham doesn't consider that an adult may read YA fiction to connect with younger readers.

"Talking to a pair of very smart girls about the feminist themes of their favorite young adult novels was one of my more delightful experiences as a reader this year," said Rosenberg. "The thoughtful lovers of young adult fiction may grow up to be avid readers of many other categories of books as well if we take the time to encourage them to think deeply about literature."

Noah Berlatsky at The Atlantic rejected Graham's assertion that YA fiction endings lack "emotional and moral ambiguity" to please those who desire "things to be wrapped up neatly."

"This is a formula that seems to erase many canonical works, from Jane Austen's happy marriages to 'Romeo and Juliet,'" Berlatsky said.

He added critics seem to want an uncomplicated world more than YA fiction readers.

"In the name of high-minded, conscientious reading, (Graham) has swallowed marketing copy. Good books go over here, neatly labeled 'literary fiction' by salespeople, while the less good books go over there, neatly labeled for kids," he said. "The history of influential, canonical fiction written for children, from Alice to Narnia, is neatly erased, in favor of another encomium to John Updike."

And John Green, a prominent young adult fiction author, explained in a May 6 Cosmopolitan article that adults like his work because the YA genre allows him to explore important questions with "unironic emotional honesty."

"When I set out to write a novel ("The Fault in Our Stars") about two young people living with cancer who fall in love with a book and then with each other, I was writing it for teenagers. But I was also writing it for my adult self - the one who wanted to know whether love really is stronger than death and who wanted to find hope and joy and humor amid hard times," said Green.

"Those desires know no age," he said.


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Copyright 2013 Deseret Digital Media, Inc.

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