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Friday, September 28, 2012

Why Adults Read So Much YA Lit

Over the last couple of weeks there has been much conversation about how much YA Lit is actually read by adults.  Christi (of reading map fame here) passed on an interesting article from Culture Ramp in which the authors try to break down the reasons why adults enjoy YA Lit.  They also link to the study that started this discussion in the first place.

One of their arguments is that the "remedial" nature of YA Lit for adults is a nice change of pace.  The argument is much more complex than this sound bite version I am writing here, so click through to read this well thought out and argued article.

While their points are well taken, I think Culture Ramp and others who have engaged in this debate are missing one key factor.  There is currently a trend away from the sympathetic narrator in adult fiction, especially in literary fiction, but even in genre fiction.  One thing you can count on in YA Lit is that the reader is meant to sympathize with and root for the protagonist.  The protagonists in teen novels are supposed to be reflective of the teens who are reading them, and are meant to provide an example of the best course of action to take in a difficult situation.  These novels and their protagonists in particular, serve as role models for teens.  The protagonists go through a worse version of what the teen readers are going through and come out okay on the other end.  The readers are supposed to identify with the characters' plight and learn from the fictional teens' mistakes.

In my work with adult readers, I find that many of them are growing weary with protagonists they cannot trust or do not like.  For these readers, knowing that a YA novel will give them a sympathetic narrator is just what they are looking for.

Anyway, that is my 2 cents on the subject,  Feel free to leave your in the comments.

On a side note, this reasoning is also why I am generally disappointed with YA novels.  I like ambiguity in my protagonists; I crave the unreliable narrator.  The clear cut nature of who is good and who is bad is why I often stay away from YA lit in my own personal reading.  On the other hand, this is why I like the YA novels of John  Green because I feel like he does not pander to teens.  His protagonists are nuanced and complex in more of an adult literary fiction style.


Christi said...

Thanks for writing about this! I like your take on it as well. I think there are so many fascinating facets to this phenomenon. I think probably as many facets as there are people reading YA Lit :).

Tahleen said...

Love this—I love YA lit (also I am a wannabe YA librarian) and this pretty much sums up why I enjoy YA fiction more often than adult fiction.

Speaking of unreliable narrators in YA lit, have you read Chime by Franny Billingsley? It is excellent and I think just as good a read for adults as for teens.