Embarrassed About Reading YA? Don’t Be!

More than half of the young adult books sold in the US are bought by adults—adults who 78% of the time are buying the books for themselves, not a teen. So why are you still hiding your copy of Divergent under a dust jacket for the latest Louise Erdrich? We know that’s not Nietzsche on your NOOK.

You read YA. You read it. You know you do, or you wouldn’t have clicked on this link. So own it. That’s the idea behind Scholastic’s #IreadYA campaign this week. Authors and readers, like myself, are taking to Twitter and Facebook to say it loud and proud: YA is not just for young adults. Here’s why you should be reading it.

It’s universal. Studies prove that 100% of adults have been a teen at some point in their lives. That’s a hard statistic to get around. Not every reader once rescued a group of endangered bonobos from a violent revolution or hunted escapees from a vast library of the dead or starred in a reality cooking show in Napa Valley. But every reader has felt the awkwardness and excitement and frustration and invincibility and longing for connection and understanding that is being a teenager.

It’s heightened. I like to say that YA is just the human drama writ large, because for teens (and teen characters), everything is new. Therefore it is exhilarating and frightening and, yes, life or death, even if it just feels that way. You will find love and pain and forgiveness and failure in YA, so prepare to feel. Luckily even hardcovers are cheaper than therapy.

It’s good. I’m done with the impression that YA is simply dumbed-down literature, and so is The New York Times and just about every respectable critic. Yes, there is crappy YA, like there is crappy everything. But there is also really fantastically, achingly good YA. So good that it wins National Book Awards and Edgar Allen Poe Awards and Los Angeles Times Book Prizes and Lambda Literary Awards and lots of other awards that “adult” books earn too. That’s more than you can say for your oh-so-adult J.D. Robb paperback.

Variety is the spice of life. There’s no rule that says we’re allowed only one genre. I’m in an MFA program that has me reading the most literary of literary literature. Some nights, it’s frankly nice to put down An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter and pick up Eleanor & Park. It keeps my perspective fresh and my mind from melting.

You too can be cool. YA literature is where it’s at, and if you read it, you know no one says that anymore. Keep up with the younger generation through books so you don’t have your younger sister/cousin/niece/daughter stare holes through your head when you ask her “‘sup?”

Everyone else is. If teens know anything, it’s peer pressure. You don’t want to be the only at your book club who doesn’t know why Peeta is so much better for Katniss than Gale.

Do you read YA?


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