Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Why Do Adults Like Young Adult Speculative Fiction?

When the media blows open a scandal of a much older man dating a much younger woman or vice versa, we’re curious, right? We ask ourselves, “What’s the draw?”

When you see marines singing “Let it Go!” (at 2:20 they REALLY go crazy!) at the top of their lungs as if their drill sergeant is pointing a gun at their heads, you wonder, “Have these men gone insane?”

When you look at the sales of Harry Potter, Divergent, Hunger Games, The Giver, or Dune, (some of those listed in NPR’s top 100 Best Young Adult Novels), many of those buying the books and buying the tickets to the movies are ADULTS. Why? What’s the draw? Have these people gone insane? Why are these people so obsessed with a product specifically written and marketed for YOUNG people?

Here are my speculations:

1. (Most) Best-selling YA books are well-written. Anything that is written well is a draw to voracious readers. If you are a fan of speculative fiction and have read great YA, you know the language isn’t dumbed down for younger readers. The main difference is that the perspective of the book is from the young people, not the adults.

2. Another reason adults like YA is that they are written from a different perspective than traditional fiction. Most speculative fiction is written with an adult protagonist and after so many repetitions of the same theme, you can get bored. Reading the story from a fresh perspective can give an old story a new twist, a new point of view.

3. That new point of view also gives adults an insight into today’s teens. There’s a cultural divide between the techno-savvy digital natives and their technidiot, Luddite parents and grandparents. (From THEIR perspective at least. ;-) ) Understanding YA speculative fiction can help bridge that gap. It gives adults something to discuss with their kids. An opening. A common ground. And anything we can use to build those relationships these days is golden.

4. Let’s face it: adults want to recapture or relive our youth and this is a vicarious way to do it. Reading about teen adventures and watching teen adventures on screen is exciting. Yeah, if I were a teen again, I would SO want to attend Hogwarts or be pursued by a bare-chested young man with super powers! (No, not really. But you see my point?)

5. Then there are the books that are best-sellers but AREN’T well-written. I won’t list the ones I’m biased against, but it happens. (grumble grumble) Why do THEY sell well? Fads. Trends. Power of the mob mentality. As a writer who has yet to hit it big this angers me: bad writers can make it big while great writers languish in anonymity. It’s reality. I know it. But that doesn’t deter me. It fuels me to try harder. But yo! Stop buying poorly written books just because everyone else does, okay?!

So in my eyes, there’s no scandal in an adult reading a YA book. Or even picking up a middle grade or a picture book. And if marines want to get excited about “Let it Go!” let them have their joy! The world is a better place for it. The scandal is in NOT connecting with others. The crime is NOT reading the books. The terrible fact is we’re losing so much of our culture and so many of our children to “reality TV” that is nowhere near reality and drives a political agenda of hate, selfishness, and greed.

READ GOOD BOOKS! Let good authors share their vision of the world with you and re-envision the world with them. Together, we can make the world a better place.

Revision. It’s not just for adults.

What do you think? Let me know. Do you have another reason adults buy YA books?


Next week’s main course on Revision is a Dish Best Served Cold: My review of The Circle by Dave Eggers (Bwahaha! Fun stuff. Read it if you have the time!)

On the menu for the future: an interview with Margot Dill (Editor 911) about her new book Caught Between Two Curses , a review of Gravity Box and Other Spaces by Mark Tiedemann,

Also look for my articles on Walrus Publishing’s website.

Like Ghost Stories? I’m published in Rocking Horse Publishing’s Spirits of St. Louis: Missouri Ghost Stories. Check it out!