Wednesday, March 31, 2010

On Reading YA Lit

Awhile back CindyS posted about romance readers who read YA literature. She expressed some befuddlement about why romance readers would venture into YA lit with its mostly chaste love interactions. Like Cindy, I enjoy some (ok, usually a lot) of heat in my romance novels. However, when I pick up a YA novel, I go into it knowing there will not be the intimacy levels of one of my beloved romance novels.

Cindy said, "Having puzzled on this for years it occurred to me that maybe it's because I read YA books when I was a YA."

As, did I! However, I find I'm just generally jealous of the quality and diversity of current YA literature. When I was reading YA lit I read the classics (Judy Blume), and pretty much what was available at the time: R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, Joan Lowery Nixon, Richie Tankersley Cusick, Caroline B. Cooney, and Sweet Valley High (and University too! Yea, I admit it!). While that's not an extensive list, those were pretty much the major players when I was a young adult. I really just wish I'd had Sarah Dessen, Elizabeth Scott, Suzanne Collins, J.K.Rowling, Laurie Halse Anderson, Ellen Hopkins, John Green, Rachel Cohn, Maureen Johnson, and so many others when I was teen.

I think there's an awkward, angsty teen lurking deep down somewhere in all of us and while I'm glad I NEVER have to live through adolescence again, there's something nostalgic and endearing (for lack of a better word) about reading YA lit.

I think YA lit tackles some universal themes that most people, adults and teens alike, can relate to. Themes such as finding your place in the world, finding the strength and courage to be who you are, not what others want you to be.

YA lit also introduced me to other genres I thought I wouldn't be interested in: sci-fi and fantasy especially. Speculative fiction books like The Hunger Games and Life as We Knew It, encouraged me to seek out comparative adult titles such as Cormac McCarthy's The Road. The Harry Potter series and Kristen Cashore's Graceling & Fire allowed me to see the wonders of fantasy.

I think a post about teen lit without mentioning the Twilight series would leave an obvious hole, considering it's popularity. I read all the Twilight books. Enjoyed them well enough. Have never re-read them. On one hand, I'm glad it's so popular because, as with the Harry Potter series, a lot of adults who might normally turn their nose up at books written for teens were falling in love with the books. On the other hand, I think there are way more well written teen books out there and I'm sorry they're not getting the kind of attention that Meyer's mediocre series is receiving.

A few months back, my Book Club's book was the speculative fiction teen title, Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. There were a number of reactions to reading a "teen" book. Some members didn't think twice. One of our few male members, later said, "Oh I didn't read it because it was a girl book, right? For teens?" Ummm, no but ok?! Several others just flat out didn't want to read it because it was a teen book. All those that did read it? LOVED IT.

I think Wendy, The Super Librarian, said it best in the comments on Cindy's post:

At the end of the day I've liked YA novels for the same reason I like grown-up novels - the characters. If I believe in the characters I'll follow them just about anywhere.
While the teen books may not contain the hot and heavy action that most of us romance readers have come to expect, they often take us on just as satisfying a ride as any adult novel!

Do you read YA lit? Why or why not? Would you be willing to give it a go?

Additional Reading:

Carpenter, Susan. "Young adult lit comes of age." Los Angeles Times 8 March 2010

Webber, Carlisle. "What they don't know won't hurt them: Persuading adults to read YA literature." Publishers Weekly 16 February 2009


  1. I've started reading more YA lately; however, i tend to stick to fantasy and urban fantasy ones. Simply because I don't except romance in that case :P

  2. Good deal! Whatever floats your boat! ;)

    Have you read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins yet? Also Kristen Cashore's Graceling and Fire are both excellent!

    I'm currently reading a dystopian, Incarceron. It's good, unfortunately I wasn't reading quickly enough and I had to return it to the library before I finished it, else I rack up some serious fines!

    And the "moon" series is really good, Life as We Knew It. Haven't read the second one yet but I can't wait! It's also dystopian/speculative fiction.

  3. LOL, I have both The Hunger Games and Graceling and Fire in my TBR pile. The trick with me though is I need YA in small dose.

    Oh, Christine read Incarceron and quite enjoyed it :D

  4. I get that way with specific genres too. I read a few YA then switch to romance, then switch to literary fiction, etc. usually it help keep me out of slumps. However, last month I only finished The Unwritten Rule. That's IT. :( There's never enough TIMEEEEEEEE!!!!!

  5. BTW you've GOTTA read Hunger Games! Gotta, gotta, gotta! Love the other two as well but HG is literally un-put-downable! ;)

  6. LOL, I know. I just need to get in the right mood for it :D

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  8. I now read mostly YA fiction but I only started in 2007 thanks to a class I took for my MLIS where we had to read 20+ YA books. Before that I'd read Harry Potter and the odd novel that someone recommended but mostly read books for adults. I agree with you about the kinds of books that were around when I was a teen. I read a lot of the same authors you did and then made the switch to books for adults (Agatha Christie, John Grisham, etc.).

    I read YA fiction because I enjoy the emotions and unusual storylines that aren't always there in books for adults. I also like YA romance because it is so intense and innocent at the same time. We adults tend to be more jaded.


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