Grown-ups who read kids’ books

Illustration by Liana Finck for SLATE.

Illustration by Liana Finck for SLATE.

Ruth Graham’s June 5 SLATE piece about grown-ups who read young adult novels has sent reading and book-loving opinionators into something of a tizzy. The piece was titled “Against YA“, and even more provocatively subtitled “Read whatever you want. But you should feel embarassed when what you’re reading was written for children.”

I giggled with embarrassment. Not.

Them’s fighting words, Ruth Graham. And who are you anyway?

Turns out Graham is a writer from New Hampshire, and she soonafter turned up on her home state public radio’s show Word of Mouth and also on NPR, in defense of her piece.

I will resist joining the chorus defending both myself and the various pleasures and virtues of reading children’s books — and not just YA but even books for younger readers (gasp!).

Suffice it to say that the subtitle was certainly chosen as a way to draw in readers, and Graham’s piece was much more thoughtful and provocative than a simple “shame on you!” Really interesting questions emerge both there and in the debate that has followed: about pleasure and reading, literature and not-literature, the changing nature of adulthood, youth culture, sexism and books, parenting, child development, and more. If you’ve missed the hubbub, jump in and see what you think!



  1. Oooooo how tantalizing! I have yet to hear the hubbub. I am an avid reader of YA novels, and not just to pre-screen them for my step-daughter who has been reading way above her age level for years (she is now 12), but also for the sheer pleasure of them. I have drawn the line at rereading anything Judy Blume wrote. I did not savor the books on the first round after all. My personal taste runs more toward fantasy in this category. I find sometimes I just need to escape into a book and given the reality of being a full-time adult in this world, YA novels are just the ticket sometimes.

    1. One of the response pieces that I read likened reading YA novels — which, the article claimed, often have tidy, pleasant wrap-ups — to watching a *TV* show like Nashville (which I am a sucker for — for the music, of course). I think the term “escapism” was bandied about too.
      And while I don’t agree that all YA novels are escapist or simplistic (nevermind that “YA” came into being as a marketing category!), if some are, and that’s why people read them, so be it! More power to you for *reading* as opposed to plopping down in front of the tube like me!!

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