Children’s Literature: Is it Even a Thing?

You guys won’t see this until well after now, but just so you know, I’m supposed to be working. I really need to be grading. Or packing. Or doing anything but watching the comments feed on a WordPress article. But I’ve been having a conversation about The Hunger Games and young adult literature with the good folks at Scholars and Rogues for the better part of the day. I’ve managed to write, over there in the comments section, what probably would’ve been at least one, if not two or three or four, blog posts–and so I decided what the hell, I’ll write a bit about it myself.

The post contends that The Hunger Games holds no real cultural critique; the author sees the books as a cash cow for Collins and Scholastic, written to cash in on the explosion of YA literature’s popularity in the wake of the Harry Potter and Twilight books.

Now y’all know how I feel about The Hunger Games and about YA literature. If you don’t, read this. Or this.

Suffice it to say, I’ve been arguing my fangirl heart out. We discussed the origins of the genre with The Outsiders in 1967 and the problem of situating a beginning of the genre as an economic product with Harry Potter; we talked about the history of violence in children’s literature and about how the means of production can affect the product. And as the conversation took its twists and turns, I started having another conversation with a fellow children’s literature graduate student or two on my Facebook feeds, and I began to see a connection between these two conversations. What I noticed the was terribly interesting. My feelings were about what I thought was a mischaracterization of YA and children’s literature. My colleagues’ reactionsย became about children’s and YA literature as a genre, as well.

Often, people think that children’s literature and young adult literature are easy to define– at least until they start to try. Just think about it for a moment. It’s not a genre written by children. It’s not always about children, either. And (perhaps most significantly) it’s not exclusively for children; it cannot be, because someone has to buy the product (after someone has decided to print it), so it has to have some kind of appeal to an adult. Sometimes, a book like The Yearling or The Chocolate War becomes children’s literature when it was intended by its author to be for adults. (Jacqueline Rose characterizes this as “the impossibility of children’s fiction,” but I tend to agree with Marah Gubar-we should stop worrying about defining the genre -see her essay “On Not Defining Children’s Literature”).

It’s also particularly difficult to see the through-line in children’s literature because of the massive societal changes concerning childhood just within the last three centuries. Adolescence is a fairly new concept (and so is the genre of YA, of course). Our concepts of childhood, of what it means to be a child, have changed as adulthood and society have changed. If you have trouble with what I mean there, think of the mind-boggling car seat regulations that have changed so drastically just over the past 20 years. Think of whole TV channels that we now have specifically for children on cable that is more widely available and has a far greater picture than just 30 years ago. Now think about the kinds of changes that a rising life span, the creation of a new country, the rise and fall of slavery, the industrial age (with all of its factories and cars). Restructuring society affects childhood. It changes the way life is lived, and it changes how we have to raise the next generation of people.

And so, of course, the way we write for children has changed, too. In the 17th and 18th centuries, children were often killed off in didactic stories—Daisy ran too fast and wasn’t looking where she was going, so she fell into a well and drowned. This was common, as was its inverse–a child that was very good and died early, thus forever preserving her goodness. Later, Alice in Wonderland and some of the other Golden Age children’s literature poked fun at these didactic stories–Alice is consistently almost dying, and jokes about it are constantly being made. Sex and sexuality were also not uncommon in children’s texts–Peter Pan is full of jokes about Tinkerbell’s jealousy of Wendy, and its initial chapter title is “Peter Breaks Through”–a thinly veiled sexual reference. Removing the child from parental control somehow–a journey, a death, etc.–provides agency for the child, and the actions that fictional children take are complex, the texts representing an adult configuration of children and childhood.

Now, with the rise of adolescence, we’ve seen the creation of an offshoot of children’s literature. And it has taken off in a major way. Estimates are that half of its audience is above the intended reading age.

On a final note, and of especial importance, is the way we’ve pejoratively defined childhood. Maturity rhetoric assumes that it’s always better to not be a child, to be older. (When someone says “infantile” or “childish,” for instance, it’s never a good thing.) And so something like children’s literature has been overlooked and oversimplified for a long time, as it has been so allied with children’s culture. For many years, it wasn’t considered a valid field of study: children’s literature was too simplistic to need to be studied. It wasn’t Literature. Except that it is. It’s complex. It tells us as much about the adults who produce, distribute, and buy it, who create the fictional child, as it does about the children who read it.

In the coming weeks, as a prepare for comps, I’ll be working through a list of texts that are a small but representative sample of the last three centuries of children’s literature. I’m looking forward to seeing what new stuff I discover about childhood and the way we represent it.

For now, I’m off to do some of that stuff I’m supposed to be doing.

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  1. Reblogged this on DBCII and commented:
    While I have talked a lot about genres like Science Fiction or Fantasy… there’s different ways to slice the genre world. What about YA or Children’s lit? Often with a lot of overlap to the science fiction/fantasy world.

    So here’s a great piece from someone working on their PhD in the field… it’s part of a response to an annoying post by someone else, and is a lead-in to more content over on the blog. Definitely give the Part Time Monster a read!

    Oh, and a huge conversation started on the subject, as well! Check out the comments!

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    1. Hey, thanks for the reblog and the plug. This ended up being one of my favorite conversations on the Monster, even if it started from a place of annoyance. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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      1. Sure thing! It was good to see something positive come out of the negative start to this all – that being the post on Scholars and Rogues.

        If I were to add a thought of my own on the whole idea of tapping into dystopian literature… in college, I took a number of classes from a professor who started every class with the same icebreaker. He would ask: if you were left on a deserted island with three books (and the complete works of Shakespeare, and the religious text of your choice, as these were the most common responses) – what three books would you take?

        Inevitably, there would be the person in the class who would go practical, and go with “How to Build a Boat” and books of that nature. But of everyone else, basically everyone named a dystopia, if not several. 1984, Brave New World, Atlas Shrugged, the Giver, Lord of the Flies… any number of different dystopias, but united by this topic.

        So someone deciding that she was hitting on some “new fad” just to make money has no thought to the long history of these sorts of stories… but we knew that the moment you brought up Battle Royale and they had no idea what it was!

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        1. That’s really interesting. I wonder why dystopian fiction has taken such a cultural hold. It does seem that most people, even people who “aren’t readers” have a favorite book that is dystopic.

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    1. Jedi, how have we not met yet? (And @PartTimeMonster, Yes! The attitude toward the girl reader was extremely troubling. It is one of the many things that worked together to set me off.)

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      1. I don’t know! I’ve only recently started trying to get my blog out there more. It was started for one of my grad school classes, but I decided to keep it up since a lot to librarians blog now. I only found this place recently through the Liebster award nominations since I think we were nominated together. So far, I like what I see here.

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        1. Ah ok. Just odd that Diana knows someone with your screenname and I didn’t remember seeing you until this thread. Nice to meet you!

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  2. I haven’t had a chance to craft my response to your response (I do agree with you though). But I finally got a chance to read the original article and some of the comments. Did anyone ever bring up that Collins wasn’t just a television writer? Her Gregor the Overlander was published years before Hunger Games. And Hunger Games didn’t become popular immediately, it was a slow build, like a couple of years before it really became popular and exploded. No one seems to have brought that up either. What idiots. Even those that say they work with kids seem to have a low opinion of YA lit and teens. If I had had time that day, I might have.

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    1. No, but that’s an especially valid point given the argument. I feel like much of the criticism here was based in reaction to the concept and in dislike of the novel–and that’s why so few pieces of real evidence were used. That makes for bad criticism. And really, there are plenty of criticism to be leveled at THG, but the two that were used were so completely unsupported. The attitude toward YA literature and the girl reader in particular is something that I found extremely troubling in that piece.

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      1. I agree there are other criticisms, and those commenting clearly just didn’t like the books at all. But you have to do your research, which it seems they only partially did. She was published way back in 2003, so she wasn’t just a new author, and those books continue to be checked out by young readers and lauded by critics and librarians. Plus, the THG came out just when Twilight fever was exploding, so to say it was a marketing ploy to replace it is kind of stupid, it had just started! It was ending by the time HG began to explode with the movie, four years later!

        As for their attitude, YA lit was around long before the current explosion on it. They have a point that they are marketing things towards teens more now, but that’s becasue so many of them have jobs or get an allowance from their parent’s that allows them to buy books, other generations didn’t always have the income to do that. But that doesn’t mean those books don’t have value or meaning or aren’t as good as Hinton and Blume. So many great books have come out of the current YA and Children’s market.

        Female readers, and readers in general, aren’t as dumb as they think. It’s not just the “love story” that attracts readers to stories. It’s the characters and the storyline in general. Katniss gave teen girls a heroine that stands up and fights for what she believes in. She didn’t almost commit suicide for a guy who may or may not by “the one” she did it becuase she refused to kill a boy she grew up with, becasue she knew she couldn’t go home and face his family and friends, and becasue she refused to kill without a reason all becasue that’s what the government and the public wanted. Girls see that. Archery interest has gone up for teens in general because of her and the books. That has to mean something other than that the book is “trash” they way they think it is.

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        1. Yes indeed.

          I don’t expect blog posts to be 100% researched, as a rule, but I do generally expect claims to be backed up rather than presented as fact, especially when what is fact is fairly easy to find.

          The attitude toward female readers, though….I’m not sure how to fix that. It’s based on misunderstanding and a pejorative idea of what it means to be a girl. It makes me sad when folks who are so obviously disdainful of adolescents, especially girls, are working with them in a close capacity. We can’t teach them to love themselves if we are contemptuous of them.

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        2. So gotta chime in when I’m supposed to be doing other things.

          @jedilibrarian, you seem to understand both marketing and chronological analysis better than anyone on that other thread. What you say about THG coming out just when Twilight was exploding is exactly the sort of stuff I would look for if I’d been forced to into a criticism duel. I am glad that did not happen. I don’t really have that kind of time, but in this case I would have done it.

          I don’t expect 100% research either. I do expect facts to be separated from opinions and statements of taste, though. Facts can’t be assumed. They must be documented. If one wants assume facts, one needs to lay out the assumptions at the beginning and give me a signpost statement to explain where we’re going. I don’t mind a diatribe about how much a writer hates a genre, work, or author. But if that’s what I’m reading, and I see facts that need to be proven stated as assumptions, I dismiss everything that’s being said and move on.

          Unless someone I work closely with tries to point it out in a friendly way and gets treated dismissively because they’re too young, or a woman, or whatever. If I see that happening, and if it is not recognized or resolved in a reasonable amount of time, I go all Machiavellian. I almost never intervene directly. But I do support people I collaborate with in my own way. Especially when it’s people who are at the top of the academic hierarchy behaving that way. They’re supposed to know better, even on the Internet. Or if it’s people who I thought were friends. Because dismissing a friend that way when you know better is a form of betrayal, and there must always be a reckoning for betrayal.

          And whether it’s unwitting on their part or not is beside the point. If I ask three more people their opinions and they all see confirm what I’m seeing without me telling them what to look for, I assume it’s there.

          The reason I posted those Sendak videos is because Sendak gets children. He understands how complex they are. The negativity associated with women and children is a big problem. The assumption of simplicity, etc., is a bad thing. And I do not know what to do about it.

          (apologies for the length; I was so happy this thread was still active, I went a little overboard).

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        3. ha! Wonderful points, all. I have little to add except that….And yes, Sendak got children in a way few authors have–or people in general, really.

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        4. I know, I was surprised that some of the comments came from supposed teachers! If I thought like that, I’d never get a job as a Youth Librarian! An understanding of kids and what they read is needed. That’s why I took YA materials.

          I might make an actual post myself. But I’m so behind in posts as it is.

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  3. Well, I’m done except to note that this comment I am writing makes this thread longer than theirs. It means nothing and is slightly petty to point it out, I know. But I can take a little delight in it and play it for laughs.

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  4. lol…Perhaps? Often there’s a disdain for children’s literature among the literary crowd, because clearly it must be a simple text if it’s meant for children. Except when it’s not, of course.

    The thing about the machine is this: we’re all part of the machine. No one escapes it. To single out this instance and assert that it is somehow different without giving evidence is to make egregious claims most, I think, as link-bait.

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    1. Lord, no. Harry Potter couldn’t have been successful without the YA mechanism and genre already in place. The better part of the series isn’t YA anyway. I would say that Cedric’s death is the turning point in the series from children’s to YA literature.

      The factual errors in that post are mind-boggling. I tried to point them out without being an ass about it.

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    2. ๐Ÿ™‚ I respectfully disagree in that we’re still producing, still working for an audience. For me, society is the machine, which is what I mean by not being able to be outside of it. As a part of a society, we all have to be a part of it to some degree.

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      1. Yes. That was a fundamental part of our disagreement, I think. I don’t see a way to be outside of the machine and be a writer (or anything, honestly), while the writer of the Hunger Games piece seems to see some people as inside the machine, some as outside, and insists that those on the inside are inherently compromised by this.

        I’m not sure that’s true. It makes claims about the publishing industry that aren’t substantiated or viewed through an entirely critical lens. Simply throwing Marx or Adorno into the theoretical conversation isn’t enough to present Collins as somehow different than other writers. And that made-up publishing scenario is just awful.

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        1. Shades of grey indeed. Just not 50. ๐Ÿ˜‰

          Society as machine is absolutely where I was going. I think society is the machine–and there’s not a real way to be outside of it. We can subvert it, we can refuse to always work for the machine, but we’re inside of it all the same. Too much literary and social theory, I suppose, has made me a bit cynical. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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    3. So, now that I have a sec, I’ll chime in on the Marxism. I’m not one, and I think Marxist principles are a terrible way to organize an economy or a society. However, “Marxian” theory (that’s using Marx’s theories for analytical purposes as opposed to overt political ones) can be useful if you’re careful with it and diligent with your methods.

      I find it helpful for understanding social and economic class, for instance, but I do not think it offers a full account of class because no single theory can do that. And I apply the same standards of evidence apply to Marxian analysis that I do to every other mode. You don’t get to assume facts when you’re making an argument about an industry or the relationship between laborers and owners.

      That’s the real issue for me here. I don’t accept the relationship between authors/publishers that’s assumed in that piece, nor do I accept the argument that The Hunger Games isn’t social critique, because it isn’t proven to my satisfaction. I haven’t read the Hunger Games, so they could conceivably have swayed me toward that position by showing me some evidence. But they didn’t.

      I view the “means of production” as a real thing that people control, it’s just that I prefer captalism so long as we’re talking about capitalism with a strong social safety net and good laws. So that kind of talk doesn’t necessarily roll off my back like water off a duck, but when I see that phrase used to support an argument, I want that argument laid out clearly and I want to see a rational attempt to prove that we’re actually talking about the means of production.

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      1. Oh, I absolutely don’t accept that the Hunger Games is devoid of cultural critique. That was an asinine statement, and there’s no evidence from the writer because there is no evidence.

        In the only 2 instances he named in the comments section as evidence, there were major issues. One of them was Katniss and Peeta not eating the berries and dying at the end of book one. I fail to see how this would be a more productive cultural critique, and that’s not fully explained. In fact, that the two aren’t allowed to eat the berries and are instead hurriedly extracted from the ring shows us that the government is attuned to the people enough to know that they cannot allow this to happen. It’s also a mark of Katniss’s awareness, as she knows this will happen. Further, that would be the end of the series unless we were to have a book 2 in which we see Katniss’s and Peeta’s families put to death and tortured, and the fact that the writer of the piece hasn’t read past the end of book 1 handicaps commentary on the end of the novel.

        In the other instance, when Peeta and Katniss are in the cave together, the writing is taken to task as being contrived. Well, duh. The two have been run into a cave by game-masters who control quite literally everything that happens in the arena: the weather and sunlight and what the tributes encounter included. Katniss and Peeta are told to keep pretending they’re in love–it’s their way out. So contrived is exactly what that scene should feel like.

        There’s listed in the article itself a problem with the idea of kids killing kids. That seems, like most of the other stuff listed, a matter of taste, and it seems useless to use that as a critique, especially of dystopian literature.

        It just all smacks of deliberate misunderstanding and insistence that age is the only mark of maturity, that there’s only one way to write something good and productive, and that is to write Serious Literature for Adults.

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        1. Exactly! She had a pretty good feeling they wouldn’t let them. They need to have a winner or the games don’t work! The people wouldn’t like it.

          Lot’s of people I’ve talked to have a problem with the kids killing kids concept. My mother included. Then she saw the movie, and loved it! You don’t actually get to see most of the killing, it takes place off page/stage. We are only told who died through the nightly projections of the faces of those that died. Seeing the movie changed her opinion because of the overall story. These people seemed to have missed that point.

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      2. haha, yeah, there’s that. And one more thing about this. Notice how I just gave everyone on this thread my opinion of Marxism from an academic perspective. I used abstract concepts and all that. But I used them in an honest attempt to communicate, and I assumed that everyone here could follow. When a person’s talking to people outside their field, The obligation to make the conversation intelligible is on the speaker. I don’t get to say “if only you’d studied social organization the way I have, you’d see that Marxist thought can be useful.” Not if actually want to communicate and keep things friendly. Only assholes do that stuff, and when people do in the sort of argument Diana was having with them, I generally assume it means they’ve got nothing to back up their position. I think I’m done now ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  5. …”children were often killed off in didactic stories…” Wow. Yes. Grimm’s fairytales are didactic in every possible way. What about Edward Gorey’s Alphabet for Children in which they perish in 26 different possibilities? Great post.

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  6. I don’t believe in Children’s Literature or YA Literature. I believe in books. Period. I have read widely since I was four and my sons did, and do, also. I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to them when the eldest was four and the younger was a couple of months from being born. And then I read them again and again over the next decade and a half, until they began to read those for themselves. I just re-read The Railway Children for the umpteenth time and regularly re-read Montgomery, Alcott, Burnett, Norton, and many more favourites. The best books supposedly written for children have deeper meanings for those who think, no matter what age. Heinlein, Bradbury, so many, many more.

    When I was in grade four, each room in our small school had two shelves of books for the kids in that room only; one shelf for girls, one for boys. The girls’ books that year were largely ‘doctor-nurse’ so-called romance books. I hated them. I had to fight for months to get permission to read books from a more advanced grade. I’ve never forgotten it.

    When we moved to a slightly larger town and the school had a library, I was 12 and in grade 8; I took out a book on Ancient Egypt that must have been four inches thick or more. I kept having the librarians and various teachers question my ability to understand it; even more, they questioned why I would want to read something that they thought of as being at a grade 12 level. But I loved it and it changed my life.

    So forgive me, but I’m a bit stirred up when I hear of ‘children’s books’ or whatever . . . I say we just have ‘books’ and everyone, no matter their age, read whatever appeals to them. And for heavens’ sake, read to your children above their supposed ‘level’!! That’s how kids learn.

    Sorry if I’m ranting, but this is SO important to me! I’ve read over 13,000 books in my life (I include re-reads) and Dr. Seuss, Andre Norton, Heinlein and Bradbury are as important to me as Guy Gavriel Kay and all the more recent authors I read. As are the ‘classics’ like Dickens and others of that time.

    Love your post; just had to speak my piece. ~ Linne

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    1. Hey, nothing wrong with a little rant now and then. I disagree that we shouldn’t categorize books (that’s partly what I take from your comment, so forgive me if I’m misunderstanding). I agree very strongly with your statement about the value of books as books though. That’s very important to me as well, but I approach it differently than you.

      Just out of curiosity, because you’ve piqued my interest, and I’m minding this blog for the week. Do you reject the idea of genres entirely? In other words, do you have the same problem with labels like “fantasy,” “romance,” etc.that you do with Chldrens’/YA?

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    2. Thanks for such a thoughtful comment!

      Like Gene’O, I wonder if you have the same reaction to all generic distinctions. I think genre is a useful tool, as it allows us to categorize, even if it’s somewhat free-wheeling.

      Many books that we now consider children’s literature weren’t written to be–The Yearling, Lord of the Flies, The Chocolate War, Peter and Wendy, etc., were written with adult audiences in mind, though they’ve become canonical children’s and YA literature. And oftentimes classics, like Jane Eyre, will make their way into children’s book sections, though why I don’t really understand.

      Even the books that are meant to be children’s books are far more complicated than we give them credit for in many cases. Where the Wild Things Are is one of the most beautiful and complicated texts I know of, and it was absolutely written with children in mind. Sendak himself said “You cannot write for children. They’re much too complicated. You can only write books that are of interest to them.” And I think he’s right.

      Children read texts that are more complex than we want to give them credit for, and children’s authors, especially the good ones, are ever-aware of it.

      That said, I come from a family of avid readers. My mom read aloud to me as a child (coincidentally, she read LOTR to my older siblings and I); my brothers were always reading something; even my dad read his western novels. I read things earlier than I probably “should” have. But even now I love a good children’s book.

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      1. I was reading LotR and Battlefield Earth when I was very young, and now that I’m trying to graduate from college I rarely read a novel that long – I mostly read comics, YA, and picture books. I make a lot of jokes about my “regression,” but honestly I think it just illustrates how categories are extremely helpful but shouldn’t be limiting. It’s really helpful to me to know what I’m getting into, so I can budget my time and emotional commitment accordingly. It’s the same for genres like fantasy or romance. Sure, they can overlap and I like to vary my input, but there are WAY too many books out there to read without categories.

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        1. Yes indeed. I think, too, that as we become more sophisticated readers, we are able to find more meaning and complexity even in “simple” texts, and it becomes fun to see what we can see from the adult world that is carried into the world of the child. Winnie the Pooh, for instance, is full of word games and adult jokes that get funnier and inspire deeper thought as you get older.

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  7. Fascinating take on kids lit, and I agree YA is fun to read as an adult, some of it anyway. I’ve noticed crossover between adults who like Fantasy and YA.

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  8. I’ve read that entire thread, and decided I don’t really have anything to add over there, but Hannah’s right. You were, in fact, super awesome.

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      1. You maintained the composure better than I would have. The thing that’s occurring to me now, having read it several times and even had another person read and discuss it, is that there wouldn’t really have been a discussion if you hadn’t chimed in over there – just a lot of wanking about how right that post was. Didn’t really think about that until after you got home and we discussed it in detail, but it’s true.

        I’ll do something more with this, was just super-busy while you were gone with things that had to take priority. Thinking about it.

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        1. I have a fourth person reading it now. They’re seeing the problems, but that’s a long thread, and they’re not even done cataloging the problems with the post yet. They also have a link to this post. I am off to bed. We’ll talk more about this over the weekend.

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  9. I appreciate this post. Looking forward to more. I am in the minority, I guess, because I think most of the YA literature I’ve read is frustratingly boring, but I really enjoy a lot of stories marketed to middle grade kids and I love picture books. There are really only three books marketed as YA fiction that I’ve ever been able to form an emotional connection with and passionate about. I agree with Hannah though: I think stories are just stories and it doesn’t matter who they’re marketed for. Seems like a lot of the adult readers I know are into YA franchises because the books don’t require the time and energy investment of enormous adult series with books that run 600-700 pages or more.

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    1. Out of curiosity, what were the three YA books that you enjoyed? And what is it about picture books that you enjoy?

      I primarily study YA literature now, but my master’s thesis was on Peter Pan, and I do a lot of work with literature marketed to younger children, too.

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      1. Well, the three books I was thinking of were Tex, Annie on My Mind, and My Side of the Mountain, but I don’t know why I had My Side of the Mountain in my head as a YA novel. Now I’m back to “stories are just stories,” I guess.

        Tex and Annie On My Mind both had characters that I felt connected to for one reason or another, and actually remembered and thought about them after I read the books. I’m sure there are other young adult novels that I have enjoyed, but those are the only ones that are connected to one that level.

        As far as picture book, I think picture books are able to engage more of my senses, and I enjoy that. The tactile experience of holding and reading a picture book is different from reading any other type of literature. Picture books are visually engaging, because I think they’re designed to engage young readers in more ways. I like looking at the different ways that fonts and images are used to help create atmosphere complement the story story, and as somebody who tends to write long stuff, I appreciate picture books for their ability to tell engaging stories and comparatively few words.

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        1. No worries.

          I haven’t read Tex or Annie on My Mind, so those are 2 new ones for me to check out once I finish up with comps work.

          And yes–picture books are so different from other reading. I’d say that comics are about the only things that can compare to the visual element, but even that is a different reading experience–and another undervalued one, at that.

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        2. There’s an element of smell with comics. I am really weird. But comic books have distinctive smells as well as distinctive art and design. I like touching them and looking at them, but I can’t comment much on the reading experience. I’d say I’m aware of/conversant with comic characters more than the average person, but I’m not really a comic nerd. I have a hard time following comics so I don’t try anymore, but I do agree with you that comics are an undervalued art form and really have more to offer than they’re generally given credit for.

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  10. I just read the comments on that post, and you were super awesome both here and there. I’m not really an expert on the ins and outs, all I have to add is that I’ve worked in public libraries for ten years, and adults love YA too. I don’t have surveys to tell me exactly why, but there could be any number of reasons — they mostly ask for really good YA books, and it’s mostly adults who read a lot. So, perhaps like me, they just like a good book and don’t care who it’s marketed to.

    Sometimes they want to read what their kids are into, either to keep tabs on them or more often to share in the experience and have a topic of conversation. Recently I helped an older gentleman put Divergent on hold, and he didn’t have kids reading it, he was just attracted to the interesting story and quick pace. Some of the adults who ask for YA aren’t big readers, but do enjoy YA because it tends to have that quicker pace, or they do love to read but don’t have time for War and Peace. YA is faster.

    Probably any number of other motivations for heading to the YA section, the emotionality of it might be one, but at any rate they do indeed head to that YA section.

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    1. Thank you, thank you.

      I think there are probably a lot of reasons that adults like YA literature…And I think that the quicker paced plots with straightforward language (as you mentioned) is a huge part of it. Unfortunately, those things have been undervalued in “serious” writing. I don’t know if this is true or not, but I read somewhere that roughly half of YA literature readers are in the 25-44 age range.

      I think part of the popularity of YA literature is also due to the way we think and talk about adolescence-as if it’s the best time of our lives-but deep down we know it’s fraught with the perils of first kisses, awkward stages, puberty, and the discomfort of not being a child but not being an adult, either.

      My bigger problem with that article was its complete lack of evidence aside from taste-based judgments. I tried to insist on evidence without being an ass. lol

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      1. Yep, agreed. I’d venture to guess a lot of the adults who were asking me about Twilight were asking because they KNEW Bella makes a lot of crazy stupid choices and they were nostalgic for that time in their lives.

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