Culture

Is It Really So Strange?

Culture

Is It Really So Strange?

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Sherman Alexie has put it brilliantly in his show-stopping essay of the YA Fiction debate, summarized pretty succinctly as:

“The world sucks, why lie to kids about it?”

Because chances are they already know. There’s no such thing as innocence, probably. And if there is, it has a challenged lifespan.

The young adult identity is a conflicted one–not only mentally, emotionally, and hormonally, but as a demographic. Before they became the most marketed-to age range in the world, they were basically the most ignored. Now their economic power guides adults to follow their lead, trend-wise. How else can one explain the success of Harry Potter, Twilight, The Hunger Games, and the Stieg Larsson Trilogy- their ‘mature’ counterpart? If YA has become more explicit lately, it’s because the YA market is no longer exclusive. Adults may have picked up the first book in the Harry Potter series to feel like they were relating to their children with the gesture (and for a generation of parents obsessed with such aim, this seems plausible). They picked up the second book because they were genuinely feeling it. By the third book they were saying, ‘Fuck the new Ian McEwan, I know what I’m taking on the plane!’

Certain people aren’t fond of YA novels being saucy, violent, or emotionally challenging. The assumption is: ‘protect children now, so that they can grow up to be adults with a taste for the violent, the obscene, the fantastic, the explicit’–the kind of adults for whom adult literature is somehow not salacious enough–the kind of adults to whom adult life is not interesting or fulfilling enough. This, I’m reasonably sure, is most adults. The world is not full enough of interesting, fulfilling, and financially gratifying work to insure against this. Admittedly there’s something weird about the carry-over appeal of YA novels as opposed to other aspects of teen culture. Do adults listen to Justin Bieber? Not unless forced. So why do they read YA novels in broad daylight? Was the idea of roping adults into the franchise thought of first, or begun as a response to an already burgeoning trend? And what brought all this on, actually? Can it be that adults are simply beyond embarrassment at this stage in evolution?