Friday, June 27, 2014

Sunday's New York Times Book Review section had a small column entitled "The Great Y.A. Debate of 2014" referring to a recent Slate article whose author not only admitted to not weeping at the end of The Fault in Our Stars but also suggested that adults should be ashamed of themselves for reading books written for children. All I can say is, "Oh brother."

The article quoted opinions from both camps--those who feel adults shouldn't be ashamed of their reading choices and others, such as A. O. Scott, the Times movie critic, who referred to the "problem" as "the cultural devaluation of maturity."

Would it please the court to examine the "adult" bestseller list, where the hundred and fifty shades of gray keep making their appearance?  Even the euphemism "adult language" in reference to movie profanity gives cause for pause.

What makes a work of literature YA?  S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders (written when she was fifteen, yet a consistent favorite among teen readers) is often hailed as the first real YA novel, but if a book with a young protagonist or narrator is automatically considered Young Adult Lit, then there goes Huck Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, Dandelion Wine, and Catcher in the Rye.  Sometimes books in the categories seem to have fewer explicit gratuitous sex scenes.

If adults must feel shame or resort to brown paper covers in order to read some of the best books that are slotted into this category, I'd suggest they start with The Book Thief, and after reading this summer's hottest YA movie The Fault in Our Stars, either check out other books by John Green, or move on the Rainbow Rowell.  My favorite this summer has been E. Lockhart's We Were Liars.  The Interestings by "adult" author Meg Wolitzer or Karen Russell's Swamplandia might also fit the bill.

In my humble opinion, with so many people skipping the book altogether and going straight to the movie or the HBO series, I'm just happy when people choose the book.  End of debate.


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