I’ve read a couple posts lately that discussed adults reading YA. They weren’t the usual “Why do adults read YA?” discussions, but instead they focused on the tropes adult readers of YA complain about: love triangles, flip-flopping romantic interests, insta-luv, a seemingly insurmountable amount of indecisiveness, angst, and conveniently absent parents.
For Shannon Hale, what all of this boils down to is one thing: adult readers of YA are unhappy with their teenaged heroes/heroines being, well, teenagers.
These tropes in YA are tropes to begin with because they deal so directly and profoundly and metaphorically with the teenage experience. Which is what YA fiction is actually about. And when I hear them criticized so harshly and absolutely, I start to wonder if those critics are just tired of teenagers in general…
Sometimes demanding books that rid themselves of all teenage angst and tropes is like demanding that teens just grow up already and be adults.
Ginger from GReads! also wrote about this same topic recently:
I want to be a better reader, a more forgiving reader. My patience needs to be practiced, as well as my understanding…I just have to remind myself that even though I’ve been there, gone through similar experiences, that these characters don’t have it all figured out yet. And isn’t that what makes a story so rich and compelling? When character growth is witnessed from beginning to end?
I am an adult who reads YA. And I often comment on these tropes, especially if I’m in a mood.
But what I’ve been neglecting to remember, is that these characters are teenagers. They will fall in love quickly, and often, because they haven’t learned to protect their hearts yet. They will fall in love with multiple people, because they haven’t figured out who they are yet, and are constantly seeing who they want to be reflected in those around them. They will be indecisive, because they aren’t pretending to have all the answers yet (and I think I would fault them for pretending if they did). They will be so full of angst, because their worldview is limited and, for now, what affects them personally is all they can focus on; it’s hard to have perspective when your lived experience is so small.
Who am I to say these teen’s passionate and emotional responses are overdramatic? When I was a teen, I felt passionately that my mother was single-handedly trying to ruin my life. While I can laugh about it now, back then, it was a problem I felt was true and real.
Who am I to rob these teenagers of their many and varied emotions? When I was a teen, I was in love with someone one day, and with a misguided glance on his part, hating him the next.
So while there are definitely some YA authors who use and abuse these teenager tropes, there are many who are accurately depicting the teenage experience. So moving forward, like Ginger, I will be aiming to read with more forgiveness and patience and understanding. Even as an adult I can be pretty angst-filled and indecisive; I owe it to these teen protagonists to remember that.
As an aside: I refuse, however, to acknowledge that the convenient disappearing parent syndrome is an accurate representation of the teenager experience. While my parents didn’t always know the trouble I was getting myself in to, they were a constant presence that I had to work around in order to achieve my mischief.
Are you an adult who reads YA? What do you make of all this?