I happened across an article today in defense of YA novels.
Can I admit that I was astounded that a certain genre of books needed to be defended? Since when has reading not been enough? I know there was a time when the idea of a novel was rather taboo–“too sensational” they said–but the moment we emerged from that line of thought and appreciated reading for the sheer sake of reading why did it need to turn into another debate?
I am a proud reader of every type of book. At present I am reading The Old Man and the Sea (Oh, Hemingway…how I adore you), and Northanger Abbey (one of the few Austen novels I had never read), but just before this I was unashamedly going through an extensive re-read of Harry Potter’s adventures. I laughed, I cried, and I am certain I grew as a person–as I do every time I read a book that pulls at my heart and/or mind.
So here is my thought on the weird debate about whether or not “adults” should be reading YA novels: If you love it, read it. Do not allow an arbitrary category to limit you. Ever.
As one of my literary heroes, the great Clive Staples Lewis, once said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”
One of my closest friends read Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables when she was 11. She’d fallen in love with the musical, and reading the novel was her natural progession of thought. She is a self-proclaimed slow reader, but she devoted herself to that book for at least six months. (For reference: I am a rather fast reader and it took me a year to read at 25). She read Harry Potter for the first time when she was 21, and I think it is safe to say her devotion to it was comparable. I remember getting a phone call from her late at night. She was utterly terrified at the prospect of what would happen to her beloved Harry and Dumbledore as they journeyed toward a cave on a dangerous mission. The voicemail I received will always remain in my mind as one of the most beautiful moments of our friendship. Both books–one clearly labed as for adults and the other for children– helped to shape her world and grow her into the beautiful woman that she is today.
A good book is a good book, and age has no real impact on the truth of that statement. I think what matters most is that we are still reading.