Like most people, my interest in YA literature was resurrected with the Harry Potter books. And, for a while, that was pretty much it. I was still in grad school when I started reading Harry Potter, and the vast majority of my reading time was taken up with class work. But Harry Potter was a welcome relief from those extensive (and not always interesting) reading lists. And here’s a little secret: at least half of my grad school classmates were reading Harry, too.
I credit JK Rowling for the resurgence of YA and children’s fiction. She made it acceptable for good writers — no, GREAT writers — to write the books that they wanted to write. A whole new world, literally, opened up for talented authors, and our literary landscape is richer for it. As am I.
So I read what I want. I seek out good writing, compelling characters, and interesting stories wherever they may be. Do I still get sidelong glances from friends when I mention a title or they glimpse the cover of my latest YA read? Of course. But I can’t imagine my life without books like The Hunger Games or The Golden Compass. I wouldn’t want to live in a world where those reading experiences were closed off to me, simply because of my age.
I read quite a few YA gems, but there are also some duds — and YA duds tend to be spectacular duds. But I also read a lot of the more traditional literary fare, and there are plenty of duds there, too. Isn’t that all part of the fun? Trying a new author or a new book to see if we like it? Opening our minds to a new experience, a new world to explore? So what if some of them contain sparkly vampires?
There’s a quicker pace to YA books, an emotional pull, a reminder of my own awkward teenage years. Even during my formal studies of literature, I gravitated toward stories of teens and tweens: Holden Caulfield, Frankie Addams, Scout and Jem Finch, Ralph and Piggy. Maybe that’s been part of my working out who I am as an adult, this revisiting of my teen years via cultural pursuits. Or maybe it’s just that those years are so full of searching and finding and figuring out one’s place in the bigger world. That’s always a story worth reading.