While some are rejoicing over a book for adult Muggles, this reader, for one, already had her book. Seven, in fact.
Obvious confession: I am an avid reader. I read things written for adults, things written for children, and things written for young adults. I read the Internet, which includes things that should be written for no one. But my favorite, at least lately, are books for young adults. I just re-read Anne of Green Gables and cried like I was reading it for the first time. I devoured Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games series and am eagerly anticipating the movie. I loved Twilight. (I'm sorry, but I did!) I re-read A Wrinkle in Time and immediately went to Amazon to purchase other books in the series. Don't even get me started on the Betsy-Tacy books, which I read over and over and over again. Or, for that matter, on what may technically count as an adult novel but reads like sophisticated YA in the best possible ways: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I still have the copy that was given to me when I was, like Francie Nolan, an 11-year-old girl. It's so dog-eared at this point that I had to buy a new copy that I could actually read.
Maybe we adult readers of YA books love them because they remind us of our youth. Maybe we love them because they're easier to digest, or at least, somewhat less emotionally complicated (or differently so). As one avid YA reader well in her twenties explained to The Atlantic Wire, "I use them as palate cleansers, kind of. After I read Blue Nights, I re-read Catching Fire [from the Hunger Games series] and it got me out of my Didion funk. Also, the romantic relationships are so much simpler -- like the distilled version of a serious relationship, almost."
Many seem to agree that YA books are not just for the kids. As Pamela Paul wrote of the rise in adults reading YA books in The New York Times in 2010, "Today, nearly one in five 35- to 44-year-olds say they most frequently buy Y.A. books. For themselves." Novelist Lev Grossman told her, “A lot of contemporary adult literature is characterized by a real distrust of plot. I think young adult fiction is one of the few areas of literature right now where storytelling really thrives.”
Or, maybe, young adult fiction is just more enjoyable overall, and more likely to develop into major, mainstream love affairs between readers and their beloved books and characters. Anyone who's attended a midnight showing on the night a Harry Potter movie is released could attest to that. Another fan of the Hunger Games series told us: "I can have fun discussing YA books with people with whom I don't usually discuss literature, and in a way in which I don't usually discuss literature -- Team Gale vs. Team Peeta, for instance." And perhaps some of us are actually finding our way to YA for the first time, after having spent our youths on other things. Says one grown-up YA reader: "When I was in the 'young adult' demographic, all I really read were books about baseball and politics, or "serious" novels. I wonder if part of the appeal now is that I missed out on these books the first time around."
In comparison to how I feel about YA books, my love for adult fiction and nonfiction seems...well...adult. Staid. Responsible. Lacking the deep passion and pulse-racing page-turning excitement caused by the books meant for younger people. Yes, I read and enjoy adult books, but I feel like an adult while doing so. Maybe that's the crux of it. To me, Judy Blume was at her best when channeling her wisdom to young girls on the brink of womanhood, not while writing about disenfranchised housewives or middle-aged women, as much as she treats all of those topics with skill. But what does the working grown-up want to crawl into bed and peruse until the wee hours, unable to stop until the story is done, more?
Of course, in some ways, YA is just a branding mechanism: The best books are the ones you want to read regardless of the label the publishing house puts on them. But please, J.K., don't turn away from writing the way you do about Harry forever. We adults are begging you.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.