Thursday, November 14, 2013

Why Adults read YA (a love/ hate relationship)

Harry Potter—you got it going on! The YA craze is nothing new. Readers have to get their hands on the best and latest young adult fiction. And this isn't just a symptom of the young.  
Hunger Games, Twilight, Divergent, Percy Jackson, Series of Unfortunate Events
So you tell me, readers? What is the attraction of going back to school, getting picked on by the popular crowd, being under your parents’ rules again, and getting that first kiss? Well, okay, the last question is a no-brainer.

But really?

To get to the bottom of this, I polled ten adult readers who have a love/ hate relationship with YA and I wasn’t surprised to find their answers echoed a few of my own sentiments.

What is the draw of YA?

1—It’s fun.
“I love that YA is fun, corny, fantastical. That’s what I need—love—because these books are not afraid of ridiculous plotlines. I love to escape into a colorful, fun world. When I get home from work, the last thing I want to read is something heavy that will make my day ‘blah.’ I just want to unwind.”

2—Sweet romance
Love means marriage (or at least a long-lasting relationship)—there aren’t any games, lingering disappointments and regrets or players that don’t get their comeuppance. “I have to date in the real world—you better believe I want to read something sappy.” Besides all that, the general consensus was that being an adult does not automatically mean you want adult material: “I can rely on it to be clean—at least cleaner than other books.”

3—It’s simple
Boy meets girl. Boy wins girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets her back. Those polled were genre readers. They weren’t looking for the latest highbrow entertainment. They were in it for the plain and steady (dare I say formulaic?) storylines. Others liked the simplicity of the plot because they didn’t want to think about bills or kids or responsibilities.

4—It’s fast paced and exciting
Though simple, the novels also take risks. The narrators are different—sometimes they’re the bad guys, sometimes they talk directly to the audience, they aren’t perfect. The books don’t take the time to explain pop culture references and they’re not PC—kids are fighting for their lives and no one throws in an explainer (at least not a believable one). Also, the books are generally shorter (minus the sequels—though when further questioned, these readers were fine with length, but thought it was also fun to finish a book in a night).

What’s the repulsion of YA?

1—It’s…well, young:
Most of those polled didn’t like being stuck in a teenager’s head. The voices were too young and annoying or were too old and unrealistic coming from a kid. “Adolescents thinking they are so mature when they aren’t can be really irritating!” Another adult YA reader said: “I hate it because I’m not that age and I can’t relate.”

2—The relationship really can’t go anywhere.
Okay, so Bella waited for her eighteenth birthday and then got married, but what about the others? What’s their future going to be like? They can hug and kiss and whatever, but the relationship in all honesty can’t go anywhere…not until the book fast-forwards a few years into the future (which, let’s be honest, I’ve done as an author).

3—Tired of the same plotlines.
At the top of the list: love triangles where the boys vying for the girl’s hand are complete opposites (besides being hot). The chosen one trope where the character discovers powers on his or her birthday. The aloof hotty who secretly loves the main character. Girl with a dark past and a thirst for vengeance. Dead parents, drunk mother, or the loving—though permissive—father. Girl beats herself up mentally because of some reason that isn’t her fault. Love at first sight. Hate at first sight. Rich, mean, beautiful popular teenagers who have a lot of parties. Characters killed off unnecessarily. Girl holding her breath when love interest is around. The general outcry was: “Please, give me something else!”

4—It’s unrealistic.
All guys love the female even though there is nothing special about her. Every teenager is socially savvy. No diversity of opinion—the author’s agenda is clear. Complete lack of adults and parental rules—kids are smarter and/ or more morally wiser than the adults. Parties every weekend. Endless supply of money. Abusive relationships that are seen as romantic. Misunderstandings that can be cleared in a sentence. Problems disappear in the face of a relationship. Hot girl who doesn’t know she’s hot. And their list goes on…

And there you have it—while those polled loved the sweet romance, they hated that the relationships couldn’t go anywhere. They liked the happy simple plots, but didn’t want the same old tired plotlines. They craved fantastical adventures, but hated that they were unrealistic.

A complete paradox?

You could say that, and yet I’m in complete agreement . . . and disagreement because I still can’t keep away from reading (and writing) those YA books. So how about you? Why do you love and hate YA?

--Post by Stephanie Fowers


Donna Hosie said...

I LOVE YA. It has to be written in first person though. The emotions of voice are so complex and interesting.

Amber L Argyle said...

Biggest pet peeve with Ya: If I have to read through one more prom in a YA book, I'm gonna gag!

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