So why is reading an exception to this rule? I just finished reading an article by Ruth Graham “Against YA: Adults Should be Embarrassed to Read Children’s books” (the full article can be found by going to http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2014/06/against_ya_adults_should_be_embarrassed_to_read_children_s_books.html ) (I should note I found the article while reading a response to it by Kat Kinsman found here http://www.cnn.com/2014/06/06/living/ya-adult-readers-embarassed/index.html?hpt=hp_c3 ). I am a lover of books, it if it well written, pulls me in, and makes me feel something, I am all for it. Do I care what genre that book is? To dismiss an entire repertoire of stories just because you may feel shameful that it is “below you”, to me, is ridiculous.
At 24 years old I proudly camped out for the last Harry Potter book so I could be one of the first to crack it open promptly at 12:00. There was a magic (ah, again with the puns!) of being surrounded by people as passionate as I was about a set of characters. I am not sure if something like that will ever happen again, though possibly my book will do that (shameful plug ;). Those characters have stayed with me just as much, if not sometimes more, than more “adult” books I have read in recent years. This is not to say there are not amazing things being written there either. I love the complicated sweeping epics written by Ken Follett and the hard, grimy dramas by Dennis Lehane, but just as I don’t always want to watch every movie nominated for an Oscar, I don’t always want to read intense books. There is a time and a place for them sure, but there is also a time and a place for everything.
I don’t seem to hear this argument being made for adults who loved the movie Frozen as much, or sometimes even more, than their kids. It is a given that cartoons are going to have an adult side to them because adults are expected to watch these movies alongside the kids in their lives. Why should reading be any different? To say “To Kill a Mockingbird” shouldn’t be read by anyone over 30 because it is aimed at middle school readers is to cut an entire realm of classics off to those who may have never experienced the grace and nuances of those books in their youth. Yes, they may be more simply written, but just because I know how to use a thesaurus doesn’t naturally make me a smarter person. The same can be said for writers of this day. I have read some truly terrible adult fiction where it is clear the authors are more interested in saying this one-brilliant-thing than actually getting any point across. They are more concerned with seeming intelligent than actually writing anything intelligent. YA doesn’t seem to be falling into this trap.
To this day I think of the books I read in my youth with a nostalgia often reserved for long summer days, but to think that just because I have gotten older those characters would have lost some of their hold or meaning to me undermines their impact. To this day Watership Down by Richard Adams remains my favorite book of all time. I like to go back once every year or so and revisit it. There is a comfort is having that book on my shelf and knowing that Hazel and Fiver and all the others are just a page away from me. Just because I grasp more of the English language than I did when I first read that book twenty some years ago doesn’t make me love them any less.
In an age where computers and social media dominate our surroundings and our schedules are as jam-packed as ever, we should be applauding anyone that wants to read, regardless of what kind of book it may be. I would love to hear from you, what books from your youth have stayed with you all these years? Are they still your favorite? Have you re-read them again now that you are older? Did this change or strengthen your emotion?
As always, happy reading.