Should adults read YA fiction?


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Brian Clegg

Aug 7, 2014
Swindon, UK
Interesting discussion in Publishers' Weekly about whether adults should read YA fiction: - I do like some (I've recommended The Night Circus as a persuader and would also include, for instance, Bone Jack by ex Litopian Sara Crowe and the Miss Peregrine's School books).

But I also understand why some adults are wary. I think it's not so much that the writing isn't good enough (as suggested in the article might be some people's reasoning), but rather that it might feel a bit creepy to identify with or have feelings for a teen protagonist.
A book like David Almond's 'Skellig', supposedly a children's book, works for a reader of any age group, with none of that potential discomfort. A family in terror and distress. A little sister in danger of death, her older brother and an un-angelic angel in the shed, requiring to be fed on Chinese takeaways. What might be the reason for his presence.


Elegant writing.

Movie trailer
Believe it or not Game of Thrones is classed as YA by libraries... madness right? So the way I see it is that because it's 'labeled YA' doesn't mean it actually is, so it's a suck it and see job. :) Personally I don't mind the genre, but I am uber picky about my reading material because if it doesn't read well, I don't read it. To this day I have never gotten past the first few paragraphs of Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone, doesn't read well, and I can't force the matter.

But I digress, as per usual. Basically I think, if it's good... read it, whatever the age rate :)
Believe it or not Game of Thrones is classed as YA by libraries... madness right?

The only reason I bought 'Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children' was because it was in the horror section of a bookshop! The blurb, genre it had been placed under, and eerie photos set me up for something completely different.

I honestly believe that people should read what they enjoy, and they shouldn't be shamed for it. Just because you read one type of fiction it doesn't mean you can't read another. I’ve liked children's books, fantasy, comic books, classics, horror, crime, historical and all for different reasons. The only genres I don’t have a particular interest in are romance, sci-fi, and erotic, but I’m not going to think less of people who do read those genres. I sincerely wish this snobbery in literature would come to an end. :(

I don't mind finding a teenage protagonist relatable because we recreate the character and the crisis they are facing in our imagination to suit us. I don’t know, I guess I just don’t see the big deal. :confused:

As for a recommendation, I'm not sure, I guess I’ll also go with 'Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children'.
I really don't think it matters. People should read what they feel drawn to reading. Jane Eyre and Pip are children / young adults for most of the time in the stories they're in. Personally, I read young adult novels because I write them (or try to). I think some translate to adults better than others. My personal fave of the moment is Patrick Ness's A Monster Calls and I think that's a classic that all ages should read.
I don't remember the genre 'YA' existing when I was a 'YA'. I'm with Mal Peet on this one as per his interview on LAD.
@Katie-Ellen Hazeldine I'm not sure it is a genre, I thought it was just a target audience! That being said, I don't think the age group for "YA" can even be decided. :confused: It's also a bit mad to think that someone who is twelve would be interested in the same type of story as someone who is eighteen. The whole area kind of just makes me go "meeeerrr!" :p
I enjoy some YA fiction, I tend to read anything that I feel I will enjoy, I don't tend to look at genre or age. I still have books I read from when I was a teenager that I like to return to. I know a number of adults who are not confident with reading who will read YA as they feel it is more suited to them, on the flip side I know numerous people like myself who will read YA simply because the story appeals to them.
I have never read Twilight but I know a lot of adult females who have no issues with being drawn to certain characters. I think most adults to some extent recreate the characters mentally and project their interperation into the text. I know I have done so in the past when the character I was reading about didn't reflect how I imagined them. (nothing attraction wise but the description came late on in the chapter by which time I had already created my own image and despite reading word to the contrary I still saw her as such through the whole book)
I re-read Alan Garner's 'Red Shift' last night. A new copy. HarperCollins Children's books.
Slaughter, decapitation, rape.
Putting Red Shift in children's books is a clear category error by the publisher - it's a solidly adult book. It's a mistake more often made by bookshops - I once saw Douglas Adams' Last Chance to See, which is a natural history book, in the science fiction section. It happens when someone has written for a certain category for a while - Garner's first three books were children's - and then changes.
Agree totally, Diamond. The short answer is yes, I think everyone can and probably should read YA. I first read Stephen King, James Herbert and Shaun Hutson as a teenager and still read some YA as a, supposed, adult. YA is such a broad genre that it contains a bit of everything.
I agree with Karen that labeling isn't always accurate. Some books are called YA simply because they are through the perspective of children, but may deal with adult themes or be told with an adult voice. Also, genres change depending on the decade in which a book is released. The market is changing, partially due to our ever shortening attention spans (a great book called "The Shallows" by Nicholas Carr discusses this idea). I personally don't mind grown-ups reading young adult books. Fewer people are reading these days, so as long as you are enjoying books, kudos to you! Though grown-ups may have inhibitions about identifying with children, all of us were once young (as Diamond points out). The issues we read about in YA may no longer be relevant in our lives, by we might remember what it was like to be coming of age.
P.S. But I DO think grownups should read "grown-up books" as well as YA, just as I believe we should try reading different genres or books written in different time periods. As I said, all is well as long as you're reading, but broad taste brews larger minds.
'Skellig' is a children's book, and an adult's book written about the author's own childhood. His baby sister died. In Skellig, a tatty, disgusting angel arrives and the baby survives. The angel, too, is healed in the process. My second child died as a new born. It was a long time ago, still, it gets me every time, that David Almond wrote a story to create a different ending. A book worm is a book worm, pulled and pushed from within regardless of classifications. They have to organise the marketing and the shelving, somehow.

'In the wake of Skellig, despite having written for adults all his life, Almond found himself in the curious position of being viewed as a children's writer. The decision to continue down that path and write his next book, Kit's Wilderness, for children too, was, he says, "organic. Skellig had given me confidence; with Kit, I thought, here's my chance to really go for it."
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