When I’m out and about, admittedly I’m not great at small talk. This is probably my only life failing, but there it is. I want to know about people, how they’re feeling that day, what they like, all that good stuff, not just “hey how are you?” “Eh, I’m fine.” Inevitably, when I actually get into conversations with people, it’s about safe things like music and books. It’s fascinating to me, though, that whether I’m talking to friends, people at the gym, service people I have acquaintances with, whatever, that there is a growing book trend and it mildly disturbs me.
I want to make it very clear that I’m not anti-YA fiction. There are some amazing young adult titles out there. Despite the trend of problem literature I grew up through, there was also a trend of really strong young adult fiction mixed with the typical fluff series (BSC, Sweet Valley High, re-booted Nancy Drew, etc).
I understand that people may not read classics because they’re forced into it at school and that’s not something they think they’d willingly like. I get that not everyone hangs out at the library and that big franchises plain stay in the public eye better than older titles, or even newer ones that don’t have a movie coming out. Still, this all begs the question…
What is with the trend for adults to only (or mostly) stick to reading young adult books?
I’m completely serious – I’ve tried to have discussions with people while working out thinking that if they don’t know Neil Gaiman or aren’t into Clive Barker there’s probably someone who has read the Game of Thrones series or someone who’s finished the newest Anne Rice book. Heck, do people even still read Dean Koontz or John Grisham anymore? I thought Lee Child was still big? Is Chris Moore literally only read by the theatre people I’m around and no one else? Apparently no one I know tried to read the series True Blood was based on. I get not everyone is going to know The Gargoyle (fantastic book, btw), but how about whatever biography just came out or whatever nonfiction trend is in? What about a cozy mystery series?
Literally, the only series people can talk about when I’ve picked conversations are Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games, Vampire Diaries, Divergent, and maybe occasionally there will be some references to more adult-aimed fantasy series. These are also not all people with children or teens. These are grown adults, usually women, but mostly because the men I’m around usually cop out with the “I have no time for reading” excuse.
Seriously, not even a graphic novel? There are some fabulously poignant titles out there that aren’t comics, Seconds, The Sculptor, Kill my Mother, and Fun House, to name a few.
What’s also intriguing to me is most of the YA-only crowd won’t bring up young adult fiction from their actual young adult years. Not everyone I tried to strike up a conversation with had heard of Lois Lowery, most thought Madeline L’Engle had only written A Wrinkle in Time. There were a ton of other plots that I brought up because I couldn’t remember the titles anymore and would love to find those books again, only to be met with blank looks.
Seriously, if it’s not a movie franchise for the 10-16-year-old bracket, it’s not worth reading?
What are we doing?! While I do get falling into a comfort zone, I don’t get staying there. You’re an adult. Don’t you feel the need to be entertained in a way complementary to your age level? Yes, the big young adult titles are solid series in terms of sales, but they are not the only things out there. I don’t knock any genre – read romance if that’s your thing, read mysteries, read erotica, read horror, read knitting pattern books, whatever…but at some point throw in something to shake it up and challenge yourself.
I definitely read manga, but I also troll the new fiction titles stacks so I can shake things up a little bit. I’ve discovered a lot of authors I ended up liking through anthologies. I ask people for recommendations. It’s how I fell in love with A. Lee Martinez’s work, Andrew Davidson, and others. Sure, I read comics, but I also read a ton of nonfiction.
I will admit that nothing anyone says will ever, ever make me like John Steinbeck or Charles Dickens. I’m sorry, that’s my other life failing. Still, I love Dumas, love Russian literature (even if it takes me a while to read it), love reading plays.
I’m not saying this to act like I’m better than anyone, but at some point isn’t there a desire to challenge yourself and explore new territory? Even if you’re only reading genre fiction, why stick to stuff not even meant for your age level? Sure, I can remember what it’s like to be a teen, I get that, Still, why would anyone over maybe 20 feel the need to get invested in the fictional relationships of high school kids? I mean, think of all the adult women who were completely invested in Edward in Twilight…what about a regressed eternal teen vampire with an abusive streak makes you want to keep reading that as an adult? While I do get the world-building of Harry Potter will draw a lot of people in – I read that well into my adult years – I don’t get only surrounding yourself with that. If anything, that series made me so happy I was out of high school. It was almost comical reading the school worries people got up to in that series.
I still love R.L. Stine and have a lot of great memories of him, but I’m not going to only be reading Goosebump and Fear Street titles. I still page through children’s books on occasion because of nostalgia, and I went through a binge audiobook session a few years back of middle grade horror titles. Still, nothing has ever made me want to only stick with teen-aimed titles. Is this some sort of feel-good, anesthetic thing that I don’t know about? Do people think those are the only books out there? Is it just that recreational reading isn’t as important, or is it that because there are movie franchises always coming out people don’t want to feel left out?
Seriously, someone explain this to me. Feel free to comment and weigh in on this: Why are adults sticking with YA titles and only YA titles?
What’s your favorite YA book or series, either current or from years ago? What adult titles are you reading right now?