Should adults read books for teens?

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.     duncan sweet dreams SVH sunfire

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?

  16 comments for “Should adults read books for teens?

  1. Ciara_H
    October 4, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    I completely agree that what’s most important is that people are reading, regardless of whether it’s a childrens, YA or adult book. I think all ages can read YA and the same applies for children’s books. I love that YA is such a strong category now and has various genres in it and that New Adult books have now branched out of the gap between YA and adult.

    • October 5, 2013 at 8:41 am

      Thanks for commenting! I’m not familiar with the “new adult” category, but it makes sense that there would be a category that bridges the two. For example I don’t really see Elizabeth Wein’s books as “YA” so maybe she would qualify?

      • Ciara_H
        October 5, 2013 at 1:22 pm

        I haven’t read any New Adult books so I don’t know too much about it but from looking around on blogs and Goodreads I think it’s focused on characters in college or in their early to mid twenties. Elizabeth Wein’s books are hard to categorise- I think Code Name Verity is a historical fiction book that both teenagers and adults can read, and the same can be applied to the Book Thief. These are two great books and I would hate for an adult to not read either book simply because they could be shelved in the YA section of a bookshop.

  2. October 4, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    I think a YA book can be appreciated by anyone. Really, who cares? Anytime people talk about people today reading/watching/listening to crap compared to the past, I get eye-rolly. I really think people just remember the good stuff from the past and forget all of the crap that was equally as ubiquitous.

    (Also I’m glad the shut down isn’t affecting you badly!

    • October 5, 2013 at 8:43 am

      I agree! What surprised me was this was someone really young, and she clearly DID care. I don’t know why you’d be bothered by what other people read.

  3. debbierodgers
    October 4, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    I also think it’s a good thing that people reading, regardless of the book genre. However, I think there’s something to be said for letting YA be the occasional book in an adult diet, or at least to chow down on adult books with literary merit from time to time.

    Enjoy your ‘holiday’!

    • October 5, 2013 at 8:46 am

      Debbie, thanks for the comment. You make a very good point, if all you’re reading is YA, you need to diversify and challenge yourself. But also there are different levels of merit within the YA genre too. The dystopian/paranormal stuff is all pretty so-so, but then you have Green, Zusak, and others.

  4. October 4, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    I’m part of the problem too and I SO remember V.C. Andrews…!

    I think that the fast pace of YA books fits in well with this culture that geared toward instant gratification. It’s like the death of Kodak. No one has a 35mm camera anymore. We want the image now. Just like our storylines and plot twists. Adults as well as the younger generation.

    • October 5, 2013 at 8:52 am

      Leanne, thanks for commenting! You make a good point. I like to read long, complex books so I think it just goes to whether you’re reading a diverse group of books or just the same type of books. Just wanting a quick read is NOT a good reason to choose your books, but there are some YA’s that are pretty long and involved.

  5. October 5, 2013 at 8:21 am

    I’m not a big reader of YA but I think some YA books can be pretty sophisticated, I don’t have a problem with adults reading YA, maybe they get something different out of it?

  6. October 5, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    Hopefully the shutdown ends soon. I’m itching to go back to work, and really do need the paycheck. Sorry that you’re caught up in it too.

    I think in some cases the line between YA and adult novels wasn’t as clear in the past. That’s especially true in sci-fi and fantasy. Authors like Anne McCaffrey wrote primarily for a teenage/YA audience, but the books were shelved under their genre rather than in YA.

    • October 7, 2013 at 8:36 am

      Sorry to hear you’re out of work too – I hope it gets resolved soon! This is going to hurt a lot of people, even if we get back-pay. Anne McCaffrey is a great example of a crossover author in the 80’s. Maybe sci-fi/fantasy has always been more of a crossover, since a lot of teens read Lord of the Rings and that is definitely not YA reading.

      • October 7, 2013 at 1:38 pm

        Mhm. I feel like the rise of YA as a genre in the past decade or so has been more of a marketing switch than anything else. A good book is a good book, no matter what audience it’s written for.

  7. October 6, 2013 at 10:21 am

    Very interesting post!

    I mostly don’t care what people are reading. 😉 I wish everyone enjoyed solidly great literature but it’s not really my business right? I’m just glad to see books in people’s hands!

  8. Deborah S.
    October 23, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    “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 100% agree! I have come across plenty of YA books that have made me roll my eyes and question the YA genre in general. There are so many gems out there you just have to find them.I think it speaks very highly of an author if they can write for a demographic that covers teens to adults. Harry Potter and the Hunger Games are great examples of this. The authors were able to come up with extremely unique and captivating plot-lines and everyone was hooked!

    I think a fantastic YA crossover book that both my daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed is “The Riddle of Prague” by author Laura DeBruce First and foremost the book is extremely hard to put down; the plot will catch your interest almost immediately as young Hana Silva travels to Prague with the obligation of reclaiming her family home “The Rockery.” Little does Hana know this seemingly straightforward task leads her on a life-changing adventure to find the elixir of immortality. The book is full of twists and turns and the the main characters are well-rounded and entertaining. Hana Silva is a smart teenage girl with a witty sense of humor (my daughter connected with her instantly!). We were also excited to find that this is book 1 in the “Quicksilver Legacy Series” so the adventure continues with “The Temple of Paris.” I thought the author did a fantastic job at transporting me to Prague and keeping my interest and my teenage daughter’s interest (not an easy thing to do!). No adult should be ashamed for enjoying the YA genre. Reading books is a fantastic escape and if anything we should be applauded for reading rather than retreating to the television like so many others

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