There was a piece that was published on the Cosmopolitan website that I stumbled across on Twitter a few weeks back that I couldn’t help but find rather interesting. It was an opinion piece written by author John Green (yes, as in the one who wrote the much talked about, New York Times bestseller, soon-to-be-released-as-a-film novel, The Fault in Our Stars) about why many of us continue to read young adult books, even long after we grow out of our teenage years.
Green argues that perhaps one reason may be because of its honesty on an emotional level, considering that teenagers are experiencing many feelings that they’ve never felt before, for the first time; such as love, heartache, and even loss. He also further explains that adolescence is a time where the bigger questions in life are pondered upon; questions that are stubbornly unsuppressed about one’s purpose in life, the future, and responsibilities as well. Green states that when he wrote The Fault in Our Stars, it was ultimately targeted towards teenagers, about teenagers living with cancer. However, I guess it’s wisest to say that it’s because he also wrote it for his adult self that the book resonated such a huge response, even beyond its targeted demographic.
What are my thoughts about The Fault in Our Stars? Not much, nor would I really have a right to say much if I wanted to. Aside from watching the videos of Green reading the first two chapters from it the summer before its release, I have never read a single line from the book, for I do not have the desire to read this particular novel.
What I can say though is that Green does make interesting points about the emotional honesty that can be found in many YA novels that resonate well with a diverse demographic of readers. I guess on statistical measures it shows as well, for Publishers Weekly revealed in September 2012 that a new study showed that 55% of buyers of YA novels were ages 18 or above, 78% of the time with the intent of reading the book him or herself.
I remember my dad and I discussing this subject one time over Winter Break, and we both agree that the fact so many adults- in particular, people in my age demographic- are consuming mostly YA novels can be worrisome. What does that say for how these same readers would be able to take on regular adult novels? Would they be able to read them just as effectively and with just as much understanding as they would for- say- the Divergent series? My dad also made a wise point of noting its relatively simplistic language and writing style many of these YA novels have, which also calls for the argument of whether such readers would be able to handle the writing otherwise found in adult novels. Either way, you know something is up when pretty much all the books found under the bestseller section at my school’s bookstore are YA novels (The Fault in Our Stars ironically being one of them).
Look, I have nothing against YA novels in general, for even as a 22-year-old, I too am in possession of a number of them myself. Sometimes you need a breather from adult novels- especially when so many of them deal with heavy thematic content and that every other one has at least one sex scene in it. However, as a reader who has taken the time to read books appropriate for someone my age- if not older- I can’t help but wonder if the change in the character’s ages in such novels- as well as how they’ve been written style-wise- would have made a difference as to how they were received by their readership. Would it have made a difference if Katniss from The Hunger Games was made 20-21 years of age rather than 16-17? Would the Harry Potter series have as big of a readership as it does if it were written with a similar biting sense of humor as that of Haruki Murakami? Who knows.
My first novel will technically be a YA novel, but I believe that by the way I wrote it, adults may just as well be as responsive to it- for perhaps very different reasons as the younger counterparts probably would. For one thing, none of my characters are high school-aged. In fact, many of them are college-aged- a demographic that I don’t see as heavily explored in fiction otherwise. Another would be how I wrote it, style-wise. Like I said before, author David Mitchell definitely was an influence in how I approached the writing. Finally, because of the fact that it touches upon themes and subject matter that may otherwise be exclusively reserved for someone of my age demographic and older (college, career goals, jobs, marriage), I think that’s what also makes my book unique. Honestly, if I am to be more specific with who should be reading my novel, I think that if you’re 16 and up, you’re good.
John Green, I don’t know that much about you aside from what you show and talk about in your vlogs, nor have I read any of your books (though I’ll admit, Paper Towns does sound quite intriguing). What I can conclude is while you make a number of valid points in your article, I still would be a little worried if I were you by the growing number of older YA readers if many of them don’t take the time read anything else- especially age-appropriate material.
What are your thoughts about YA fiction nowadays and its readership?
Side Note: My short story, The Shadows, is coming out this Tuesday, May 27th! Be sure to check out my previous post for more details regarding it.