Why I Read YA Fiction

I love YA

If you’ve been on social media the past week you may have seen lots of hashtags that include ANYTHING related to The Fault in Our Stars and John Green.  Seriously, if you don’t know what I’m talking about you’ve really gone off the grid.

Amidst all the talk and excitement around the popular contemporary YA novel and it’s movie adaptation, someone decided to drop their opinion on everyone.

According to this person at slate.com, who I’m not naming, but feel free to go to her article and see her elaborate on how she’s better than everyone else for reading adult fiction.  Not surprisingly, she was met with a town full of adult YA lovers brandishing pick forks ready to chase her off the internet.

Here’s a direct quote from the article:

“Fellow grown-ups, at the risk of sounding snobbish and joyless and old, we are better than this.”

WHOA.  Okay, you risked it and yes.  Yes, you sound joyless and old.  My first question is, better than what?  Last time I checked, fiction reading is done for pleasure.  With that being said, who are you to decide what someone should be embarrassed about?

If one is picking up fiction for pleasure, my guess is that they are looking for a form of escapism.  A way to be transported to a different world, feel different emotions, see things from someone else’s eyes.  Just because something is written and placed in a certain genre does not mean it has to be exclusively read by the members of said genre.

The slate writer did touch on escapism and saying that there’s “room for it” and then jumped back to how teenagers may never graduate from YA fiction because all the adults are reading it.  Also, how excited she was to graduate to the adult stacks as a teenager.

Here’s where you’re wrong lady…

OF COURSE teenagers are going to be excited about reading an adult book because most teenagers are learning how to navigate their lives and are curious about a wide array of emotions and what it’s like to be an adult.  I would be surprised if a teenager never wanted to read an adult book.  Generally, readers are a curious bunch.  As we grow up and new layers of complexity arise in our lives, we naturally seek out more mature material to read and watch.  If you have a teenager that loves to read, I am going to take a wild stab in the dark: you have a smart kid who can and will pick up adult fiction at some point.

Now, I need to get back to the root of the article and the writer’s main point:  Adults should be embarrassed to read YA fiction.

I’m going to take this backwards from what I just said about teenagers.  Yes, as teenagers get older they seek out more mature material.  As an adult, I am wholly aware of adulthood.  No, I have not experienced all the benchmarks of adulthood such as marriage and babies but I have been slapped in the face by reality enough times to understand adulthood and feel the full weight of responsibility.  Here’s where my love of young adult fiction comes into play.

When I read YA or children’s literature I am reminded that to see the world through a child’s eyes is to remember that there is hope.  There is uncharted territory.  There are dreams to be made and a heart that is bursting with optimism.  As adults, we become jaded to new feelings and even push things away that may cause emotion.  When I am reading through a teenage narrator I am seeing things differently.  The slate writer would say that an adult should snicker at the trappings of a YA novel.  But the truth is that we must never forget what it feels like to be a kid and it feels good to remember things when they were so innocent and fresh and new.

Eventually we must all grow up, but that doesn’t mean we have to lose all hope and stop believing in dreams. I am not embarrassed to read fiction written for children and neither should you.

It doesn’t matter what you are reading.  It could be romance, horror, erotic fiction or the latest literary masterpiece.  Read what you want with pride AT EVERY AGE.

If anyone else has anything negative to say about adults reading children books I only have one thing to say:

Harry Potter.

 

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A case for sad stories: ‘The Fault in our Stars’ effect

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I was inspired to explore the reasons behind why I (and millions of others) are drawn towards ‘sad’ novels after reading a facebook status update from John Green, the author of The Fault in Our Stars. Here it is:

Sad day, man. I never really understood how sad the book is until now. Why did I make it so sad? Why have so many people read it? #tfiosmovie #tfios

If you don’t already ‘like’ him on facebook, you probably should.  He really has some lovely things to say and gives TFIOS fans a behind the scenes look at the adaptation of his book.  They are currently filming in Pittsburgh.

I can’t answer the first question.  Why did I make it so sad?  Only the writer can answer that.  I am certain that he has felt enough emotion or sadness in his life to convey such strong feelings through his writing and in such a courageous way.

I do agree with his statement that the book is incredibly sad.  If you haven’t heard of it or read it here’s the one sentence description from his website:

The Fault in Our Stars is the story of Hazel Lancaster and Augustus Waters, two Indianapolis teenagers who meet at a Cancer Kid Support Group.

Yes, the ultimate of sad story lines.  Kids with cancer.  To be rivaled only by stories wherein beloved pets die.  (Why do authors do that shit?  That’s just torture.)

After reading it, I had to tell everyone how much I adored it and of course that they HAD to read it.  But that came with a giant disclaimer.  This book will rip your heart out.  Then I would have to explain myself after getting weird looks.  And it did rip my heart out, but only in the best way possible.  I’m officially coining the term for what happened to me after I read it: The Fault in our Stars effect. I was flooded with IMMENSE gratitude.

Yes, I had a 10 minute sobfest.  I texted my boyfriend something gushy and weird and I’m pretty sure he responded with you just finished that sad book you keep talking about, didn’t you?  And I had.  After finishing up a good cry, I was struck by how lucky I am.  How wonderful life is.  I have my health.  I have fantastic people in my life.  The book made me see these things I sometimes take for granted in perfect focus.  Yes, TFIOS effect.

This is one of the reasons why I love a sad story.  But that’s not all.  Sometimes I read for a good escape, but that’s not the magical part of reading.  It’s magic when the author says something that truly resonates inside of you and you think yes, you really get it.  John Green really gets it.  All the while capturing the beautiful innocence of first love.  There’s some fantastic dark humor in there too, which I think is particularly important to keep the reader laughing through their tears.

It is a privilege to share something so beautiful with other readers, read their comments and think that maybe we have all collectively divided our sadnesses.

This is my case for sad stories.  Read them.  I beg of you.  Start here with TFIOS.  You may see things in a different light or find comfort.  You will probably cry.  Don’t read in a public space, just to be safe.