The Great YA Debate: Intended Audiences for YA Literature

It seems to be that there is quite the debate occurring in our society about who the intended audience of YA fiction should be. Many suggest that YA fiction is only appropriate for young adults, as the name implies. But many people, including myself, do not believe that there should be such strict limitations on who can read YA fiction and who should not. Why should there be rules and regulations associated with reading? Why is reading about a 17-year-old boy’s struggles with addiction and his quest to find himself (i.e. Hunter in Swimmers), only reserved for other young adults? Why is it not acceptable for a 30-year-old woman to read Swimmers and find a connection?

In a highly digitalized world, people are finding entertainment elsewhere, in the form of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and many other sources of instant gratification and pleasure. Less and less people are turning to literature as a way to enlighten themselves and learn new things. So therefore, why are we shunning people who find pleasure reading YA literature? YA literature can have a lot of important lessons on life and love, which is relevant whether you are 13 or 31. For me, YA literature is a nice break from the dense and often boring literature that I study as an undergraduate. I have enjoyed the books we have read thus far in this class, and I think the reason that I have enjoyed them so much is because they allow me to escape into a world that is outside of my own. I have been fortune enough to not experience the hardships that Rebee and Hunter have experienced personally, but I am often reflecting on their situations and finding some way to connect to them, whether that be because I know someone who has been in a similar situation or just because I am an empathetic person and I feel for them. Either way, I am connecting with these characters on some level, which I think many people, young or old, can do. So why is that a problem? According to Ruth Graham, this is a problem. In her article that we read the first week of class, she says, “Adults should feel embarrassed about reading literature written for children”[1]. I strongly disagree with Graham. Sometimes novels that are intended for young adults or even young children have messages that have a strong, lasting impact that many readers will take with them into adulthood. When an adult picks up that YA book, they read it and they can get reminded of that lesson or that message that maybe they have neglected as they have “grown up”. These types of realizations can be humbling for adult readers, as they are reminded that young adulthood can be a tough time, and when they read these types of books, they can reflect on their own experiences. All in all, reading is reading. Why do we have to put a title and restrictions on it?

[1]http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2014/06/against_ya_adults_should_be_embarrassed_to_read_children_s_books.html (Ruth Graham Article)

Kara Johnston

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3 thoughts on “The Great YA Debate: Intended Audiences for YA Literature

  1. Peyton says:

    I have read a lot of blogs and moodle posts about this same topic about YA readership and how adults are not supposed to read YA. I think that it is important for people to develop their vocabulary and reading abilities by going through the levels from child to young adult to adult novels. I do believe that adults reading YA are taking the easy way out. A lot of these arguments say that YA covers topics that are relatable, interesting, etc., but adult books also offer these topics, and at a level that will enhance your abilities. I know, as students, we get a lot of books that we do not enjoy, but that doesn’t mean we have to dumb down our reading material by reading YA. There are so many good books out there that I do not see the reason adults need to drift into YA. To me, going from adult to YA is a step down. I have not enjoyed the books we have read in class, and I do believe that is because I have grown beyond the level of readership these books are intended for. Adults books offer similar messages as YA books and at a higher level. Adults, after leaving YA and moving on to adult books, should not revert back, but instead continue growing with reading.

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  2. Marissa says:

    I don’t really understand the purpose of people shaming people for reading at all. Like you said, we are living in such a digital/internet world so reading no matter what it is should just be looked at as refreshing. For example, I am reading The Walking Dead graphic novels/comic books right now. These books are mainly told by pictures, but just because they are pictures the story line and the language used is pretty mature. Also, one of the themes in these comic books is a comment on the human condition. Should I be shunned because I find this type of literature entertaining and complex? No. Literature is not about how big and complex the plot/words are. It is about the story,and the escaping from day to day lives. If a 40 year old wants to read The Shore Girl, they should be allowed. Just because they were a young adult at least 15 years ago doesn’t mean they aren’t going to make a connection the plot in some way, or maybe they just chose to read that book simply for entertainment and the “escape”. Why are we trying to make something as simple as reading so complicated…
    Nice blog post! 🙂

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  3. So far I have disagreed with the idea that adults should read young adult books, but I also understand why adults do. I still think adults gain more from adult books because they have plots that “fit” with adults and I have so many books I want to read, I can’t imagine going back to young adult books. I do not want to impose on anyone and shame people for what they read. I have learned at least that over the past few weeks (not saying I haven’t learned more!), but I have really been struggling with that idea so I hope I have become more open-minded about it. However, even though I agree with Ruth Graham, if adults want to read young adult books, at least they’re reading, right? I think reading any fiction is better than none (I say fiction because that’s what we have focused on in class) but I also think that people will really gain from adult literature as well if they want to. Even though I don’t want to read young adult literature, I can’t impose my ideas on someone else.

    (On a side note, Marrisa, have to watched Firefly? If so, you have to have to have to read the three graphic novels that explain a lot from the show. They are written by Joss Whedon so they are legit 🙂 )

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