I was reading an article on adults who read “Young Adult” fiction, when the author asserted that the reason so many of us like reading books ostensibly written for teens is that they have “satisfying” ends.
I’ll get to that in a moment – but first some background.
It could be argued that the “Young Adult” genre has really only been a force in publishing for 50 or 60 years.
While there have always been books for children and teens, its only since the 60s that the market segment has blossomed – now, many YA novels outsell ‘adult’ books quite markedly.
It could also be argued that the definition of Young Adult has widened markedly – both as a market term, and also as a demographic (some academics suggest that YA fiction is actually written for those from 12-29.)
But perhaps the most interesting statistic I’ve seen is that 55% of all readers of Young Adult fiction are no longer Young.
Yes, you read that right – more than half of all YA readers are adults .. ranging right up to the elderly.
So why? And why is it no longer considered ‘shameful’ that adults are proudly reading material written for a teenage market?
Slate contributor Ruth Graham argues that it’s because YA books are, in her words “satisfying”. As she puts it, “YA endings are uniformly satisfying, whether that satisfaction comes through weeping or cheering.”
That may be true – but I think that it may be even simpler than that.
YA novels tend to be rollicking good reads. They carry us along at a clip, providing a narrative that is (generally) clear, and usually entertaining at the same time.
Two of the more popular YA franchises in recent years have been Harry Potter and Hunger Games – and in both, there is a certain “likeableness” about the major characters. It’s not quite reduced to pantomime hissing at the villains, but thre’s a simplicity, a cleanness that shines through.
Mind you, it’s not just YA that does that: Jonas Jonasson’s “The 100 year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared” is hardly a YA novel, but it has, in its cheery insouciance, a similar feel-good vibe.
Oh, I’ve read lots of ‘challenging’ novels … but I find I keep coming back to YA and the like. How about you?