There are a lot of opinions floating around out there right now about whether or not adults should be reading Young Adult (YA) books. One opinion that is getting a lot of attention is that of journalist Ruth Graham who wrote a piece for Slate entitled “Against YA: Yes, adults should be embarrassed to read young adult books”. Obviously if you’re going to publish a piece like that the best time to do it is right when a big movie based on a big YA book comes out. In this case that was The Fault in Our Stars.
You can read Ruth’s argument in its entirety here and I think you should because despite her generalization of an entire genre and a somewhat literary-snobbish mentality, she makes a few valid points. In her piece, Graham states that about 28% of all YA sales come from people between the ages 30 and 44. Her concern isn’t that adults are buying books meant for teens but more that adults are buying books meant for teens instead of books meant for adults. In her own words: “And if people are reading Eleanor & Park instead of watching Nashville or reading detective novels, so be it, I suppose. But if they are substituting maudlin teen dramas for the complexity of great adult literature, then they are missing something.”
Basically what she’s saying is that while it’s great that people are still buying and reading books at all, maybe we should stop setting our expectations so low and demand that adults read books that are actually meant for them. And while I think Ruth Graham has every right to state her opinion (and she states it rather well), I have to disagree with her on one thing: adults shouldn’t be embarrassed to read YA. In fact, I don’t think anyone should ever be embarrassed to read anything. There are shitty books in the world, I get it. But I don’t think that gives you the right to judge whoever wants to read those books.
I read YA books on occasion and sometimes I really like them. Hell, I loved The Fault in Our Stars and Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why. And The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of my all-time favourite books. But I also read a really wide variety of other books, everything from classic fiction to in-depth biographies. I love that so many people are reading YA and that so many amazing YA writers are getting recognized for their work. And I hope that all those adult YA readers are also picking up a good adult novel every now and then, because there is certainly room for both. Ultimately, we would all be better off if we’d just read more of what we liked instead of worrying about what others think.