Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Young Adult Fiction Challenge

The Hunger Games mania has re-opened a debate on Young Adult Fiction. Some people think it’s a problem: "The only thing more embarrassing than catching a guy on the plane looking at pornography on his computer is seeing a guy on the plane reading The Hunger Games. Or a Twilight book. Or Harry Potter. The only time I’m O.K. with an adult holding a children’s book is if he’s moving his mouth as he reads."

Says that particular hater, “I’ll read The Hunger Games when I finish the previous 3,000 years of fiction written for adults.”

Fair enough. I can respect that. There are tons of great adults books out there (so much to read! so little time!). But I read for fun and I love a good story and sometimes the best stories come in the form of YA fiction. "Good Y.A. is like good television. There’s a freshness there; it’s engaging. Y.A. authors aren’t writing about middle-aged anomie or disappointed people.”

Thus, I’m embarking on a fun summer reading project – I will alternate one Y.A. book with every “adult” book I read. I’ve created this Young Adult Fiction Challenge as a project of nostalgia, to see which of the books I loved as a kid hold up to an adult read. I’m not lowering my intellectual standards; this is just a series of brief visits to Young Adult Literature Land. And I’m not talking about recent YA hits (no Twilight here). I’ve made myself a spreadsheet. You’re welcome to join the fun!

I’ve already started: My Side of the Mountain and Island of the Blue Dolphins. Check and check.

It’s like comfort food in book form. I hear My Side of the Mountain in my parents' voices (oh it's definitely been read to me more than once by each of them). The plot and certain stand-out lines are hazily familiar in an awesome way. As I re-read these books, I see that it’s no wonder all my games and daydreams involved survival situations...I definitely tried to “live off the land” alongside our backyard creek at some points.

There’s also a sense of security in opting for a re-read. When I pick up a new book it’s always a risk –  I can only hope it’s good, but you never really know! But re-reads are a guarantee. I loved it 15 years ago, so most likely I'll at least like it now.

Though on the anti-YA side, I do have a bit of a problem with the fact that, “47 percent of 18- to 24-year-old women and 24 percent of same-aged men say most of the books they buy are classified as young adult.” Only reading YA fiction is limiting, but I think sometimes reading it is a-ok. I read YA fiction as an elementary schooler, and graduated to “adult” fiction by the time I was in junior high. As this blogger suggests, adult fiction appeals to kids because they want to learn about the world, while YA books are good for adults because, “It makes perfect sense for someone who has been in a repetitive job for decades, or whose home life is a series of responsibilities, to immerse themselves in other lands."

If you don’t usually read fiction, maybe consider picking up one of these books. I imagine you started reading with fiction, so why not revisit?

“You should try some Young Adult literature once in a while. Free your mind from now and go back to a time and place where wonder and discovery and "new" are encouraged. Fall in love with a character because he's strong or she's smart, and that's all. Like taking a dip in a cool pool in the summer, it's nice to just strip down and plunge in and float for a while.”

This is not a complete immersion into the YA pool. Just a brief dip every once in a while. So far it’s been refreshing!

Here's my spreadsheet so far- any recommendations?