A few days ago, I was reading a book, annoyed with the fact that the two narrators were acting like such children. They were annoying, grating, and I nearly quit the book because of it. The reason I kept reading was because the narrators…yeah, they WERE children. Teenagers. And their annoying ass behavior was totally in character. It wasn’t the author’s fault. In fact, the author was doing a fantastic job of realistically portraying the way two teens in that situation would act, speak, and think. Once I got over that, I really enjoyed the book.
More and more, I’ve been running into that sort of sentiment. Judging by Goodreads (which isn’t at all scientific), the average reader of YA is a woman between the ages of 20-50 who loves romance and love triangles and supernatural creatures. And that is being seen more and more in the actual books. Romances in YA books aren’t just the norm, they’re practically required. Some form of paranormal (or dystopian or zombie) almost guarantees eyeballs on the book. And the lines between what used to be considered acceptable in YA and what’s considered acceptable now is blurring to the point that there’s been a push over the last couple of years to create a category called New Adult, which is basically YA with more sex.
The problem is that when I hear someone bash a YA book for being too juvenile, it really irks me. Not that all teens are juvenile or that all YA books have to be juvenile. I’m absolutely opposed to dumbing down books or talking down to an audience (and teens will call you on that shit faster than any audience), but when adults read a YA book and bash its “teenness” I have to wonder if we’re ruining YA for actual teens.
Sure, it’s great that adults feel more comfortable reading YA these days. I read a ton of YA, but I read it knowing that I’m reading YA. I don’t diss a YA book that features teens acting like teens. In fact, the YA books I dislike most are the ones where the teens act uncharacteristically like adults! And when I crave a book with adult themes, I read an adult book.
The thing is, I don’t think the problem is with readers. I think the problem is with writers and publishers. I think that part of the reason people are flocking to YA books is because they’re so much more interesting than what’s being published in the adult realm. But instead of bending YA books to meet the taste’s of adults, shouldn’t we be making adult books more interesting?
Make no mistake, I don’t fall into belief that adults should read adult books and kids should read kid’s books. I think kids can read adult books and vice versa. But when adults read a YA book, it should be to read it for what it is, a young adult book.
Take the movie Superbad. We laugh at Jonah Hill and Michael Cera because they’re portraying kids. They’re being stupid and immature. If they were adults, the whole movie would have been really sad. But we don’t finger wag at them and complain that they’re not acting mature enough. Because that defeats the point of the movie.
Who knows. Maybe I’m off my rocker. Maybe this is a non-issue. Or maybe it’s like Facebook. Cool until your grandma joined.