Sunday, August 27, 2006

wait... scratch that.... reverse it.

Everyone in the kidlitosphere and beyond is talking about adults reading YA books right now--like that's new?--but though naturally I am all for it, I keep thinking about what Roger Sutton had to say about YA readers needing to find adult books. Delightful though the YA field has become, especially compared to the cesspool of my youth (hmmm.... I think I may have a book title there... The Cesspool of My Youth) there still needs to be a transition to adult books.

The hardest thing about my own transition, I think, was not moving into a harsher world, but into one so much less concerned with story. That's one thing you can just about always count on with a children's book: things happen, and in a fairly orderly fashion, and the language is generally designed to make things clear rather than to obfuscate.

So how do YA readers move on? I was lucky enough to find a book on that very topic when I was sixteen or so and discovered several books which became favorites: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (happily back in print at the moment); Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith; (I'm tempted to insert a Thorne Smith title here, just to see if people are paying attention...) Fiction best sellers of the past often seemed to be good choices, perhaps because they are so often what are called "good reads." IE, books with lots of story. I can see that trend continuing with more recent past bestsellers like The Joy Luck Club (some young characters, enticing structure) and The Lilac Bus (ditto.)

I also had some luck trying the adult books of favorite children's authors. Margery Sharp (the "Miss Bianca" books) wrote wonderful novels, some featuring young characters. On the other hand, contemporary kids discovering that Lemony Snicket is also Daniel Handler might be in for some shocks.

If you're an adult, how did you transition? What will you help your young adult kids find to read?


Blogger Liz B bligged...

I have to say, I have some problems with the whole "transitioning" thing; I don't see YA as less than adult, and to me the idea of transitioning from one to the other infers that one is less than the other. It depends on the book. But that's also why I have a problem with saying that teens "shouldn't" read adult books. It's not that formal & rigid. (and do people say this? I think yes -- isn't that the point of many book challenges, to keep the grown up books away from the children?)

I think there are people who don't read out of an area and should give other areas a try; for example, I rarely see manga readers check out anything other than manga. If someone can tell me how to get manga readers to pick up something different, let me know!

I read YA, mystery, SF, romance, etc., etc. A good book is a good book.

What I also find interesting about this is that some would argue that YA now includes up to the mid 20s for audience (and I don't have a cite handy, sorry.) What bugs me about that is WHY do books for 20somethings have to be included in YA? I think its great to target 20somethings in terms of publishing, but why under YA? That bothers me more than anything else, and I think its driven mostly by publishers.

Most teens I see read adult fiction; and they do so because there aren't limits on what they can check out at the library. What else? Having adult titles with YA appeal in the YA section, to make it easier to find. I'm not sure what else to answer, because what I'm usually faced with is a teen not wanting to read a great YA book because it's YA.

Also, what adult books are we talking about? Other than classics (either because of assigned reading or being a classics type of reader) the types of adult books I see teens reading tend to be bestsellers (Dan Brown), genre (romance, SF, horror, mystery), or Alex awards (crossover appeal by a book that could have just as easily been published YA or vice versa).

8/28/2006 7:19 AM  
Blogger Nancy bligged...

My crossover books were:

Agatha Christie
Alistair MacLean
Arthur Conan Doyle

8/28/2006 11:49 AM  
Blogger Liz B bligged...

I'm continuing to obsess about the crosover question and for the most part, the books were there, no adult said no, or someone else read it and recommended it -- parent, friend, parent of friend.

to add to nancy's books:

Clive Cussler
Robert Ludlum
Harlequein Romances
Danielle Steel
other books turned into movies -- from Planet of the Apes to Logans Run to Brideshead Revisited
historical fiction about areas I was interested in

I forget which of these were in my high school library also. I'm fairly certain we had Stephen King, another transitional author.

I see teens reading Dan Brown, Pratchett, Jasper Fforde, Grisham, Mary Higgins Clark.

8/28/2006 12:16 PM  
Blogger Liz B bligged...

oh. James Jakes. My goodness I read a lot of, er, not exactly high class reading. I swear, I was also reading Jane Austen.

8/28/2006 12:17 PM  
Blogger Unknown bligged...

I was asking a new babysitter (the 15 year old brother of my babysitter) what he liked to read, and it was basically popular suspense, Dan Brown and the like, and classics by authors he read and enjoyed in school.

That lead me to remember that by the time I was that age, I was also reading adult fiction. I think that the books I chose (excepting Stephen King perhaps) actually were a step down in literary quality--Danielle Steele for example--Not to mention that the story line (or the romantic interludes anyway) were way too much for a teenaged girl to be reading.

My eight year old is already an avid and advanced reader, so I know I will be thinking about this. I think that the trick is moving on to take in some of the better adult writing while avoiding adult themes.

I also agree that some YA literature is wonderful, making there no need to "move on," and for that, I am thankful. I also enjoy reading what she is reading, both for pure enjoyment, but also to better see the world that she sees.

8/28/2006 3:26 PM  
Blogger The Autumn Rain bligged...

I'm not sure what happened to me. I think I missed YA all together. I was thirteen or fourteen when all of a sudden I realized that I had read all the children's books from the library that I wanted to read. So I moved on to non-fiction---mainly because I couldn't find any adult books that were "clean" enough for me, and because the YA books were, well, for the most part too "mature" (maybe this should read: explicit?)---kinda like the adult books.

I started reading a lot of classics: Austen, Forster, (I just found Dodi Smith last year), and I reread my favourite books (Alcott, Montgomery, etc.). And somewhere along the way (much more recently, within the last three years or so) I started browsing the regular fiction shelves at the library. I still don't think of these as "adult" books, though. I read them because, as someone else said, a good book is a good book.

8/28/2006 4:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous bligged...

Some random observations:
1. I think my bridge was Robert Heinlein... I was 13 and unaware that some of his books were juveniles and some were adult, as I read my way through his ouvre.

2. There are some special categories of child/YA/adult mislabeling, though I don't know if anyone has ever transitioned on them. Some examples: a) a book that is often miscategorized as juvenile because it involves talking toys and animals is "The Mouse and His Child" by Russell Hoban, but the author has been quoted as saying he never intended it as a children's book, and indeed I don't see how anyone who's actually read it could continue to believe it was meant for children; b) "The Wind in the Willows" which children find boring and adults love; c) "To Kill a Mockingbird", which according to some reports I've seen, has been taught as young as 3rd grade. Presumably some educator thought it was suitable because that's the age of the protagonist.

3. It has been my delight to continue to discover juvenile and YA books that I hadn't found, or hadn't been written yet when I was the "appropriate" age for them. For me, it wasn't a question of transitioning FROM one TO the other, but of expanding my reading to include "older age" books without giving up the "younger" categories.

4. I was never attracted to Tove Janssen's Moomin books as a child because I didn't like the look of the illustrations. I discovered the books as a young adult, and I'm glad I did, for they surely contain much depth that would surely go unnoticed by a child reader. Their insight into human nature is complex and perceptive enough to be worthy of an "adult" novel. (And now I like the illustrations because they evoke the wonderful stories.)

8/28/2006 6:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous bligged...

I think it started with reading Star Wars books and Star Trek books, because I was very into those. And so I would go into the bookstore and look at the science fiction section.

I was also into dolphins.

One day I walked into the SF section and saw a big hardcover with dolphins on the cover. It was a hardcover, so I didn't buy it, but I decided that I was going to buy it, so I bought one of Anne McCaffrey's other books...and that was the start of an obsession. I think I was 13. I largely skipped YA books, which was helped by the number of teen protagonists in fantasy novels.

9/04/2006 6:20 PM  

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