Wednesday, August 12, 2009

How Old Is Too Old For Young Adult?

Well I don't think you're ever too old for it. I have recently been turned onto the world of Young Adult Fiction and don't ever want to be turned off. No matter how old I am (cough...36...cough).

Just today, my sister was telling me about a blogger getting some harsh comments, claiming she was too old for YA! Yikes. On the same subject I want to share some thoughts from Maggie Stiefvater, the author of a fabulous new YA book, Shiver.
The real thing that grated my cheese was this idea that a blogger ought to step down from YA lit because she's no longer a teen. Um, no.

Actually, allow me to clarify: HELL NO.

The average YA author is older than I am and all of us are older than our intended teen readership. Does that mean we ought to be writing adult fiction instead? That would be a lot of unhappy Twihards if Stephanie Meyer decided to write Twilight as an adult series. The thing about YA is that the kernel of it, the point of it, the entire theme of the genre is coming of age. Coming of age is something that we can understand at any age. It's being on the cusp of something new. It's making that leap, deciding what to do with yourself. It's doing anything for the first time. That's the point of YA fiction, and it's something that anybody can enjoy. Look at the success of TWILIGHT. Harry Potter. (and yikes, SHIVER).

To say that adults can't read YA because they aren't the same age as the protagonists is as ludicrous as saying that teens can't read adult books because they aren't yet adults. It's ultimately condescending, either way. Adult saying to teen: "you won't enjoy this movie/ book because as a teen, you haven't experienced loss/ cheating/ tax evasion/ other adult theme." Teen saying to adult: "you won't enjoy this teen movie/ book because it's been too long since you were cool." No. You cannot say that.

.....I identify more with the character issues in a lot of YA -- the growing up, the jumping off cliffs, the newness -- than I do a lot of adult fiction, which deals with fatigue, mid-life crisis, marriage issues. Am I the only twenty something who feels this way? Nope. There's also thirty somethings, forty something, fifty somethings who prefer the genre . . . age is irrelevant when coming to reading. There's no "this is right for this age." "this is wrong for this age."

There's this: "This book is right for me." "This book isn't my thing."

That's the only truth there is in reading. As a reader and as a writer, never forget that YA is a marketing distinction. It's books placed in a certain section of the bookstore because they will probably appeal to teens. It doesn't mean they won't appeal to anybody else. And it doesn't mean that that's the only place in the store they could go. We write the best books we can about the characters we care about, no matter how old they happen to be. And I don't care who's reading my books. I don't care if it's grandmas with fake teeth or teens with ipods or toddlers drooling sippy cups on the pretty blue ink. I just care that they're being read.
Well said Maggie.


Rebecca @sometimesnonsense said...

I couldn't agree more! I love love love the way Maggie worded it. Thanks for sharing, makes me feel better for living and breathing YA books at the age of 30. At least I have the excuse of writing it - research! haha

~Jamie said...

pshaw.... that's the good stuff... I will read it until I am old and grey. and then... I will read somemore!

Anonymous said...

I def. agree!

Maggie said it all and more! The fact that I started out writing what I thought could pass as a YA Fantasy, was really things tackle in an Adult Fantasy. Plus I find it amazing how well older people view/play out YA's, they're relatable and real, obviously they know something us younger ones don't!

If anyone were to tell me when I was 16, writing my book, that I cannot write it because it will turn into an Adult and I have no idea how that works I think I'd have to use some hefty language of offense! lol!

Great Post Jenn! =D

JennM said...

Thanks guys!! Maggie pretty much rocks!