On growing up.

This post by Roger Sutton, the editor of The Horn Book, seems to have upset quite a few people involved with children’s literature and YA literature. People are most worked up about the last sentence: “Whatever whoever chooses to read is their business, of course, but adults whose taste in recreational reading ends with the YA novel need to grow up.” Maybe I am a bad person, but I think I tend to agree with him (especially with his clarifications in the comments of that post).

I read a fair amount of YA literature, because I like how linear it often is, and I like that it’s not afraid to deal with big questions like death and God and the purpose of our lives. I think about those questions a lot myself, and I like to read books that deal with those things. I also like to read to escape, and, since YA fiction often reads so quickly, it can be easier to jump into a YA book and escape than it can be to tackle one of the tomes on my adult reading list. I seriously doubt that Roger Sutton would begrudge me any of those reasons. No, I think that he is pointing out, rightly, that YA literature doesn’t offer the full perspective of life, and if we intentionally reject that other, more developed perspective, we are, in a way, stunting our own growth. I feel that way myself if I haven’t had time for an adult book . . . that I need to get a different perspective. That it shouldn’t be the only thing I read. For all that there is to love about teen literature, it is often very narcissistic, because that’s how teens think. And it’s not good for me to only read books from one perspective, be that age group or gender or race. In fact, I try to go out of my way to choose books that challenge me in all kinds of ways, in addition to reading simply for pleasure and to escape.

I don’t think it’s wrong in the least to read a lot of YA or to enjoy reading YA. But I can’t say that I disagree with the perspective that it’s good to challenge our minds with other reading, too, where the characters have had a little bit more time to grow up. I used to balance my own personal reading with books that might possibly be good for my book club. These days, my not-entirely-for-pleasure reading is for my school library, so I can make good recommendations. I don’t begrudge anyone reading what he or she likes, not by any means. But, in my own experience, it’s not good to read just one thing, whether that’s YA literature or romance novels or theology.

So, go ahead, read what you like. But . . . think about expanding what you like, giving other things a chance. I think that’s what Mr. Sutton meant by “growing up.”

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