I read the Slate article about adults who read young adult fiction and my response is: Who freaking cares? The idea that adults are reading is a good thing. The more you read, the less you are watching cable news. Unless of course you have the TV on in the background.
Yes, the stories in YA fiction are often less complex than those in “adult” fiction, but is that a bad thing? And by “adult” I mean stuff for grown ups, not 50 Shades of Gray. Adult life is complicated enough as it is, what’s the harm in a little escapism? At the end of the day that’s all it really is.
It doesn’t seem all that long ago that critics and columnists were decrying the bestseller lists, saying that what passes for literature these days is mass market junk food. *cough cough* Dan Brown *cough* Now that adults are reading well crafted stories, albeit ones aimed at teens, a lot of people feel like they have to get on their high horse about it.
That’s the thing really. If most adults are reading YA fiction then they obviously aren’t reading critical reviews of the latest tome by whatever author the critics have on a pedestal in their reading room.
Remember “critrock”? That was a term coined in the 90s to describe musical artists that critics loved, yet the public generally ignored. Once everyone moved past “alternitve rock,” whatever that was, it seems that critics turned their collective loving gaze to certain authors that they felt should be considered the next Updike, Salinger or, God help us, Hemingway.
I don’t mean that to denigrate the late, great Ernest, I mean it to denigrate all those hyperbolic critics who drop the H word when decribing a writer whose career they are trying to bolster. The truth is, in many cases, the H word they should be using is “hack.”
A lot of these writers don’t create narrative fiction as much as they foist upon us literary thesauruses. Thesauri? I don’t mind being challenged a a reader, hell, I encourage it. However, I don’t feel like it’s the job of an author to act as a crusader for the dictionary industry. It comes across as a “look at me” attitude that in normal society would be shunned. Those sort of novels are the literary equivalent of the Jackass films, or whatever percentage of YouTube isn’t taken up with cat videos.
I like “Cats on Roombas.”
In fact, being a writer is the only vocation where being a show off is encouraged. Well, that and maybe a classical musician. When a rock guitarist shows off it’s considered “wanking,” but when a classical musician does it they get their own PBS special.
But I digress.
YA fiction, for me, is an escape from the adult world that is all around me all of the time. In that way it’s a bit like science fiction. In fact, there are a lot of good YA science fiction/fantasy novels. The problem with a lot of sci-fi for grown ups is that at best it reads like a technical manual, and at worst like a textbook, and I didn’t like reading textbooks when I was in school–I didn’t have time for them. I was too busy reading books for grown ups.
And some for adults as well.