Yup, this post is about the HOTTEST THING IN THE WORLD RIGHT NOW OMG YA LITERATURE. And also about how I'm totally oblivious about it. Yes! Shocking, I know.
This is strange, in a way. I'm an eclectic and omnivoracious reader. I read a bit of everything. There are three basic exceptions.
1) Romance (though I once read a Harlequin novel out of curiosity! Luckily it takes only 45 minutes!)
2) Westerns (though I like western movies and always think I should read some westerns and plan on it and never do. I have read some literary novels that are sort of westerns, like Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy, but that's really more Cormac McCarthyish than westernish).
Yes, I am mostly unread in YA. How did this turn of events come about? I posit three possibly overlapping theories.
1) I am really pretty lame.
2) I simply missed the train. Or maybe I didn't even realize there was a train and merely stole a pickup truck and let out a YEEHAW! and tore off down the street. I think this is pretty likely. I started reading seriously in grade three when my Mom (happy Mother's Day!) forced me to read The Hobbit. LOTR followed, of course. I read a few Hardy Boys. Then Watership Down and the Duncton Wood series (and those mole books are certainly adult, what with the sex, death, and genocides of the faith). And I've read the Prydain Chronicles and the Harry Potter books, both of which sort of start out as middle grade and evolve into YA (in my completely uninformed opinion). The Prydain Chronicles I read when young (Harry Potter as an adult, perhaps my lone adult step back into the YA realm), but after that I simply read adult fantasy, sci-fi, crime, and then classics and literary novels, and then history, science, memoirs, etc. So from about grade five onward I was reading adult books.
I'm not sure I even comprehended the fact that there was a section such as YA. It was beyond the pale (or at least my interest). My parents trusted that I could handle the older stuff. But this leaves me with a sort of experiential gap.
3) My third theory has more to do with my adult self. I could go back and read YA now... and yet I'm not really drawn to, no matter how great some books are supposed to be. Why? My theory has to do with the nature of the stories, the idea that they're often (so I randomly guess!) of the bildungsroman sort. Young people and young people's issues. But I'm not a young person. I'm in my early thirties, and have kids of my own. These kids are young, though, and so I can't really engage these YA issues through them yet (in a decade, perhaps?). They make me curious, naturally enough, about stuff to do with kids. Kids literature and point of view, stories about kids. But not really the teen/YA sort of thing. And for myself, I'm just not engaged in these issues. They're long past for me, nor do I feel I have any real unresolved issues stemming from that period. If I were consciously or subconsciously working over such issues, I'm guessing I might be drawn back into such stories. So, for me, I just feel I'm not engaged right now in the sort of character dynamics that drive the YA novels.
Yet obviously I don't know what I'm talking about! Because YA is hot hot hot right now (Thank you, Harry Twilight and the Philosopher's Eclipse)! And a fair bit of this is driven by adult readers. Sparkly Loving Moms! Dumbledorf Dreaming Dads!
So as a writer and bookseller I'm curious. What draws you to YA literature? As a reader? As a writer? There is great writing there, obviously, as there is in all types of literature. Is that it? You'll look for a good story wherever? Or is there something more, something about the nature of YA itself that draws you in? And what the hell is YA anyway? I read and liked Catcher in the Rye, and yet I have the feeling that if this were publisned now it would not be in the literature section, but rather in the YA section. How has YA changed, and why has it changed? Curious to see what you all think! Lay out my lameness, if you will.