Every so often I’ll be overwhelmed with desire to read a certain Young Adult (Y.A.) novel. I’ll resist that desire, hovering over the “buy” button online at Amazon or Barnes & Noble, thinking, thinking and, yes, over thinking. I always end up in the same place of “oh no, you can’t” and move on to purchases of adult literary novels.
Two forces fuel the resistance. I want to read far too many adult fiction and non-fiction books, both new and past, for which there are not enough hours in a lifetime. How then can I allow such an indulgent detour? Second, I wonder if I’m being childish. Will I next be buying stuffed animals and tossing them onto my bed? I feel embarrassed.
A recent essay in The New York Times Book Review releases me from my ridiculous self-consciousness. According to “The Kids’ Books Are All Right,” academics and critics, agents and editors of adult literature are reading Y.A. novels. We’re not talking Harry Potter and Twilight. They’re going backward to read childhood classics they missed, let alone reading new releases.
What struck me was not that I could sigh with the relief of permission, knowing heavy-weights in the literary community eagerly read Y.A. novels, but that I got the answer for my perplexing desire. Y.A. books allow for a kind of timelessness and wonder, the article explains. It quotes Jesse Sheidlower, editor at large at the Oxford English Dictionary, who says, “When you read these books as an adult, it tends to bring back the sense of newness and discovery that I tend not to get from adult fiction.”
When I read The Book Thief and The Invention of Hugo Cabret, two best-selling Y.A. novels, those were the feelings I felt: timelessness, wonder, newness and discovery. Why deprive myself of them? No longer will I hover with indecision over the Y.A. books that catch my attention. I’ll read them, and I’m going to start with Suzanne Collins’ popular The Hunger Games and Rebecca’s Stead’s When You Reach Me, the 2010 Newbery Medal winner I’ve resisted for a year. After that, perhaps I’ll read The Brave Escape of Edith Wharton by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge, a biography for ages 12 and up, braving my own escape into books that just might keep me young and hopeful.