The “Should Adults Read YA?” Debacle

Article by Ruth Graham called “Against YA” sparked a lot of uproar in YA fans across North America. A hashtag even cropped up #NoShameYA. Graham claims that adults should be “embarrassed”  to read books that were meant for children.

I think that saying that YA is worse for adults than adult fiction is hard to agree with. She calls Divergent trash, but doesn’t mention the adult “trash” that is out there (ex. 50 Shades of Grey). I personally would much rather be caught reading the “trashy” YA novel Divergent than 50 Shades, that’s for sure. Many adult genres could be described just as well in the same way Graham describes YA fiction.

Sure there are many YA books that are more about “escapism, instant gratification, and nostalgia” than a solid literary experience, but it would be a shame to paint them all with the same brush. This can be seen in the multitude of books that could be considered YA that have become classics, still read and studied today, even at the graduate level: The Outsiders by SE Hinton, The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien, to name a few. 

Graham also claims that, “Most importantly, [YA] books consistently indulge in the kind of endings that teenagers want to see, but which adult readers ought to reject as far too simple.” This is not confined to YA fiction. Many, many adult novels end in much the same way. Is she really arguing against YA specifically, or is she arguing that adults should actually be reading more complex literary fiction, no matter the intended audience? 

She also states that “the YA and ‘new adult’ boom may mean fewer teens aspire to grown-up reading, because the grown-ups they know are reading their books.” Honestly, if this kind of fiction is what gets people reading, than so be it. If fiction was confined to only the literary, honestly most people I know wouldn’t be reading at all. It’s not that they are too “simple,” it’s just that they get enough of life by living it. When they seek entertainment, they don’t always want the complex pain of real life. I don’t see what’s so wrong with escapism that ends satisfyingly, with a few nuggets of wisdom tucked in there for good measure. And really, reading, for most, is about entertainment. There’s not getting around that. Literary fiction is not for everyone.

I am going to have to go with CS Lewis on this one, Ms. Graham:
“No book is worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally—and often far more—worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.” 
And, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” 

Listen to CBC Mainstreet’s discussion here (Should grownups read YA books?)
Read Graham’s article here

What are your thoughts? 


The Bibliophile Next Door

Beth is the founder and editor of Fuelled by Fiction. She is a twenty-something east coast Canadian girl who loves writing about books and feminism.