Recently, Slate columnist Ruth Graham suggested that we adults who read young adult literature ought to be embarrassed for doing so. She shamed us grown-ups who enjoyed John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars for stooping to read this simplistic, immature and maudlin piece of escapist tripe. And, apparently because she didn’t enjoy TFIOS, she extends her condemnation to include any adult who reads any YA. According to Graham, YA “books consistently indulge in the kind of endings that teenagers want to see, but which adult readers ought to reject as far too simple ... These endings are for readers who prefer things to be wrapped up neatly, our heroes married or dead or happily grasping hands, looking to the future.” Wow.
Ms. Graham does not mention any other YA titles she might have read recently, so I have to assume that her actual experience reading YA literature is limited to what her own adult friends are talking about. To Graham’s annoyance, many of them are enjoying YA books and she thought we all needed to be scolded and set right. I am going to suggest that there are several very good reasons for adults to read YA literature these days -- including Ms. Graham.
First, a definition and a clarification. YA literature is comprised of those books written specifically for teens between the ages of 12 and 17 and is a relatively new marketing category. Judy Blume is the acknowledged godmother of this form and her groundbreaking novel Forever, which deals openly with teen sexuality and pregnancy, was first published in 1975. YA is NOT a genre, like mystery, romance or science fiction are genres. YA contains all genres, including sci fi, fantasy, mystery, thriller, horror and romance. YA literature has become widely known since Harry Potter and even more popular since the Twilight and Divergent series. Recently TFIOS has taken off and there will be more to come as many adult authors jump on the YA bandwagon.