It’s Day Four of the shutdown. Am I enjoying my time off work? Absolutely — pay or no pay, this week has been glorious. Although, it’s starting to get a little weird waking up in the morning and not having anything to do. But I’m pretty busy with my classes, yoga every morning, blogging, and a few other projects like cataloguing old family photos.
I do recognize that a lot of people will suffer in the shutdown. A lot of federal employees won’t be able to pay the bills this month. At least we have one salary coming in. I feel the worst for the cafeteria and food truck workers who rely on our business, and the other small businesses affected by the shutdown.
Me, I’m just worried I won’t want to go back to work.
I wanted to share an interesting discussion that came up in class last night. We were talking about literacy, and our professor asked about how literacy and reading has changed in recent years. Are people reading less?
Me: I don’t think people are reading less, I just think the medium has changed.
Another woman in class (in her early 20’s if that matters): Yes, but don’t you think people are reading less quality books today?
Me: Not really. If you look at bestseller lists from the 80’s, people read just as much crap then. Read what you want, but it’s not as if most people were reading more literature 20 or 30 years ago. (Thinking about the bestselling writers like Stephen King, Danielle Steel, Jackie Collins, Mary Higgins Clark. For a list of 80s bestsellers, see here.)
Her: My problem is with the number of adults reading books for teens now. Every adult seems to be reading Twilight or Harry Potter or Hunger Games, and it’s ridiculous. (I’m paraphrasing a little here.)
The discussion had to move on to other topics but I have to say I was surprised by the disgust in her voice. I could have gone on to say I think books like Harry Potter can be appreciated just as much by adults as children, or that it says as much about the expanding market of books for children as it does about adults’ reading levels. But I didn’t, I just tucked it away for later.
If her comment had been about Fifty Shades of Gray I might have sympathized more, though even then I don’t think we need to judge what anyone’s reading (as long as people are reading). I also agree that adult women going boy-crazy over Edward and Jacob is weird. But she wasn’t talking about either of those things.
I believe a good YA book can be read and appreciated by anyone, and I will never apologize for reading Harry Potter or the occasional YA novel. I suspect this woman hasn’t read any John Green or Markus Zusak or Elizabeth Wein. I also think, what’s the harm if adults and teens can actually connect over some of these books?
It’s true that when I was a teen in the 80s, there was a much clearer delineation of YA and adult than there is today. We read S.E. Hinton, Judy Blume, Lois Duncan, Cynthia Voigt. Some great books, but then don’t forget Sweet Valley High and V.C. Andrews. And the romances were REALLY cheesy, anyone remember the Sweet Dreams series? I think YA books were a lot more gendered then, even though people raise that concern today.
I divided my time between books aimed at teens (like the ones pictured here) and books aimed at adults. If that line is blurred a bit now, I’m not sure I worry about it.
Well, I’ve dated myself now, but some of you out there might appreciate the trip down memory lane. What did you read as a teen? Do you think there’s reason to think people read less quality books now than they used to? How do you feel about adults reading YA fiction? Is YA better today or just marketed differently?
Considering that I just finished Divergent by Veronica Roth and Every Day by David Levithan, I’m clearly part of the problem. If there is a problem. What do you think?