Lately an article came out in The Huffington Post by Lynn Shepherd, entitled “If JK Rowling Cares About writing, she should stop doing it” that alone just screams click bait to anyone who is a fellow writer, future writer, or is a fellow bookworm and/or JK Rowling fan. And though I feel I am contributing to the clickbait as well, it is only by linking this article you get some insight into what I am writing about in this article.
Already this has sparked heated discussion and talk (why wouldn’t it) particularly airing her grievance and shock that adults were reading YA novels as well, and also some backlash against Lynn Shepherd herself, who admitted she had never read any works of JK Rowling. Yet is asking her to step down. In the same breath, I don’t know nor read any of Lynn Shepherd’s works, but I am not asking this woman to do the same. I would be remiss, that this doesn’t bring up implications of jealousy as she has asked other writers to do the same. I already saw a post on tumblr stating she is adapting an elitist attitude and that she doesn’t care if people enjoy her books but for the money. So I will leave that side of the argument at that and talk about the other issue that was being raised, as this has been brought to mind other articles in which YA literature has been given a considerable backlash lately particularly in regards to them being read by adults than their intended demographics.
To which I ask….
What is wrong with adults enjoying Young Adult Literature?
First of all, let’s think back to the works of classic literature that we are aware of, but have been marketed as ‘children’s reading material” lately.
Anne of Green Gables
Alice in Wonderland
Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn
The Prince and the Pauper
The Secret Garden
The Legend of King Arthur
I could go on and on, but these are mostly the more common kinds of books Parents, Educators, Librarians, etc think of when they think about books geared towards children. However, the fact is these books are also read by adults as well, because the themes are universal and timeless. Not to mention, some stories were not intentionally written exactly as children being the core readers in mind, they were written due to experience, sharing, and imagination. In fact, these is no age limit on the themes even presented in these books at all, as they both deal with issues both adolescents and juveniles equally face as well. Although there seems to be a common “Supernatural Romance” and “Dystopian” theme among most YA novels lately, if you dig deeper there are still many others that don’t go down that line and focus on other YA novel plots that are more unique and unconventional than what most are familiar with nowadays that still reflect the fears, concerns, hopes, and inner demons adults face in their day-to-day life just as much as teenagers do.
Books are not a niche market, just as anyone can be a writer, anyone can enjoy and appreciate the underlying story and theme that any book can offer despite age group or demographic. There is no set rule because a book written by a Young Adult novel can still convey the same fears, social issues, and impact a book by John Grisham, Danielle Steel, Stephen King, or Dean R Kootz can perform just as well.
In my teens, I read a few adult books because the stories were good and it dealt with issues that made me feel a bit older and mature reading about them. But now that I am adult, I also read a few Young Adult novels because they dealt with issues that still interested me and I once related to and the stories still were nicely written, not all YA stories though, but ones that stood out from the rest at that time. Regardless, there was no age-limit or restriction as far reading comprehension that was adhered to as Lynn Shepherd assumes, and there still isn’t to this day between Young Adult novels and Adult novels.
A writer cannot be stuck into one genre theme and then stop at that, because it kills them. They have an advantage that most other types of media entertainers do not. They don’t feel the heavy risk of change as badly as an actor or director or musician does. When they branch off into other different writing styles or another genre, sure they will be some that will be taken aback and alienated but at the same time they will gain newer audiences or even expand that same fans mind to something else. Especially those fans that have grown up with the Harry Potter series as tweens, and now are interested in what her writing talents take her in “The Cuckoo’s Calling” a book about politics, scandal, lies, and betrayal.
Wait, aren’t there Young Adult novels that also deal with things like scandal, politics, intrigue, distrust of one’s society, gray morality also?
Yes there are. Take in mind Divergence and The Hunger Games. Both themes from these popular YA novels also grapple with themes and concerns reflected in today’s society by many adults not just because of how it affects our children, far from it, but because of seeing it happening around their own little world which we adults can feel in our most darkest moments. Most notably trust in our government, questionable conventional means of where we belong in our society, and the oversaturation of Media and Reality TV from these two books.
Really heavy stuff that adults can gather from these “Books written only for teenagers in mind.” there should be no shame in any adult reading a young adult novel. If the story is well-written, engaging, full of relatable characters and handle their developments and arcs excellently, then it shouldn’t even matter if it’s a Young Adult novel, children’s book, or Adult novel best-seller. Sure a writer will write what is the most widely popular genre at the moment to gain their brand new book exposure to the masses, and naturally what is widely popular now is Young Adult genre but it doesn’t stop there.
So much for Young Adult novels and not being “stimulating to adult minds” eh?
Any book with a universal theme that crosses generational gaps, ages, genders, and interests and stays true to them will have a more lasting impact if we look past the “children” “adult” “young adult” label and see the story and characters instead. So adults, there is no shame in reading that Young Adult novel unless you really like the story and characters and can relate to them.
Case in point…I still enjoy reading the Redwall Books even after all these years.