I’m going to preface this post by apologizing: I know I’ve written about this subject many times before, and recently, but I feel compelled to write at least once more; hence, this post. I promise I’ll try to curb any urges to write similar posts in the future.
A week or so ago, the NY Times Book Review published another “adults read YA too” article. These types of articles seem to pop up every few months ago. They all, mostly, hover around the same ideas: that books marketed or published for “young adults” (roughly for kids and teens aged 12-18) have a large number of adult fans. The article author usually expresses surprise, then interviews a few YA-loving adults to try to understand this “phenomenon.” In a lot of these articles, there is also a defense of YA literature, a recitation of evidence to show doubters that YA literature is not necessarily “immature” and can be as engaging and well-written as anything else.
Inevitably, there are also blog posts responding to these articles. It’s obviously an issue that attracts a lot of attention online, partly because YA bloggers make up a large subsection of the lit-o-sphere. So why am I joining the ranks of people responding to these articles and the NY Times one in particular? Because these kinds of articles, while often informative and maybe even entertaining, annoy the frak out of me.
Why does it matter? Why do adults readers of YA books come across to the rest of the world as anomalies or oddities to be stared at? Why should adult YA fans (or any readers for that matter) have to “defend” their reading choices? When did reading become a battleground between “right” and “wrong” genres?
I’ve said it before and lord knows I’ll say it again: what you read isn’t the important thing; it’s that you read at all.
The 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy found that only 32% of adults read on a daily basis and 38% reported reading less than once a week or never. The NAAL discovered that the percentage of adults who read regularly had steadily declined over the course of 10-15 years. Meanwhile, the NEA’s 2007 “To Read or Not to Read” report had even more sobering statistics: reading for pleasure begins to drop off significantly in middle school and continues to drop every year from there. Reading ability and regular reading habits among college graduates have also declined. For most people, books are out, TV consumption is in.
People who read regularly – at any age – are more likely to have increased academic and economic success and positive personal and social behaviors. So why are we getting so fixated on the details – on what we read, for example – when the research suggests that reading itself, whatever genre that happens to be, is the most important part?
We live in a world where technologies are constantly advancing and evolving and where industry types predict the fall of publishing and the death of the paper book almost every day. We should be rejoicing in the fact that intelligent adults have found books they love and are setting good examples for younger generations to follow, instead of getting caught up in commenting, over and over again, on the YA aspect. We don’t see article after article commenting on the reading habits of Nicholas Sparks or Dan Brown fans (and really, if we’re going to question anyone’s taste, it should be theirs). The NY Times doesn’t question the reading motives of adult romance or science-fiction fans. So why are we so hung up on YA?
In a blog response to the NY Times article, Liz B. at the Tea Cozy blog (hosted by School Library Journal) summed up, why YA appeals to her:
“I know life sucks and is full of disappointments and compromises, I don’t need that in my books, and I don’t need to be lectured about it in books, thankyouverymuch. But I also know life can be wonderful, with opportunity, luck, chances and happiness, and YA gives that to me.”
It’s a perfect response and one that resonates with me personally. But I think I’m giving up trying to defend what I read and why. I’m tired of it and, in my mind, it’s not what’s important.
In 1906, Evelyn Beatrice Hall paraphrased French philosopher Voltaire by saying: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” I think the same sentiment can apply to reading. You may not like, prefer or even understand my reading choices and habits. That’s okay. You can read what you like, I’ll read what I like and let’s both just be glad that we’re reading at all.
[Photo Credit: Getty Images]