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Author of queer, wry sci fi/fantasy books. On Amazon.
Editor of all fiction genres.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Forever Young: What YA Has to Offer Adult Readers (Part 2)

Hello hello!

Aaaand we're back.

I will be touching on many other books, so general


may lie ahead. So, let's get started again.

In my last post, I depressed the hell out of you all about what adulthood entails and then proceeded to bash nostalgia-goggles and the way they shape our perception of teenage years. However, I think that the same things that draw us to YA are also helping us get over those same problems.

Picking on teenagers lets adults pretend they're more mature, when they really aren't

There is no difference between the things teenagers do to "fit in" and the things adults do to "keep the peace". It's only a matter of sophistication. Is having alcohol for the first time with one friend and sneaking out to hang out with boys really so different from ignoring what one of your friends says about pretty women every time she goes to the gym just because you don't want to get in a fight? Teenagers are called "young adults" for a reason, and the same struggles that teens go through reoccur throughout life, just in different and sometimes more subtle forms. Teenagers have to compromise, assert themselves, leave bad influences behind, make new friends, and apply for jobs and other opportunities. That happens throughout adulthood, which is hardly the smooth ride towards success, retirement, and death that people pretend it is. One of the things that's been most surprising in my own journey out of high school and university is how much things do keep changing, and how just when one thinks things are under control and on lock, all sorts of weird stuff and various disasters will happen anyway. However, pretending that it's only teens who are caught offguard and unawares and make poor decisions makes adults feel better about their own errors and moments of truculence and rudeness.

Source. Because sometimes, you just have to show up to school dressed like Alice Cooper and start crying.

Going over past experiences helps you resolve them. 

Memories do change as we go over them, as I mentioned last time, and while i don't have the time or inclination to provide a fully-researched paper on that right now, I will say that the re-investigation of memories is one of the things that people work on in counselling. Ghosts are often bound to repeat the same actions over and over again, or are confined to the same locations, and that makes for an excellent metaphor on how people repeat the mistakes they haven't gotten over. By revisiting life experiences in YA and gaining new frameworks to compare life events to, people find new meaning in the things that sucked or seemed to ruin their lives. This is great, because you can't always track someone down on Facebook to apologize to them. They might have married, changed their names, or, well, died. YA stories provide a second chance at these things within the safe realms of the theatre of the mind. However, adults who've had many experiences aren't the only ones who benefit from this.

Teenagers need your sympathy, and remembering what it was like to be one really helps.

Teenagers need adults to read YA because it makes adults empathize with them more. It seems simple, but it's true. All that hindsight and self-insight and the other skills that come with a few level-ups just aren't present yet for teens. That's not their fault, it's just a matter of neural development and a lack of time. All that stuff that's all shiny and new and exciting? Well, it's also new, and that means teens have to learn to make decisions the hard way, i.e., by guessing. However, adults who are willing to listen to them can really help. Instead of calling a teenager stupid for fawning over a cute athlete who never gives them the time of day, remembering how utterly sweeping and magnificent the feelings of young love can be, and how much hope one had in spite of great odds, can be really useful. Sure, an adult will know that their crush is unattainable and actually kind of a douche, but teens haven't learned that yet, and the same beautiful hope can lead to some very stupid, heartbreaking things.

Regardless of all the age stuff, YA books are great to bond over.

Realising that teenagers aren't so very different from adults is helpful when talking to them, and once you get over that age hurdle, you can enjoy the same things. What a teen discovers for the first time might remind their family members or friends of similar experiences, and when the two talk about a book, other things will come up. That means other books, other movies, and of course, life experiences. The adult and teen can go through the same highs and disappointments in the book together, sometimes as a mutual first, and that's great for both. Sometimes, age doesn't even matter that much when the story is really good.


Should adults grow up and stop reading YA books? Do we need to fix this problem?

Of course not. Books are a gateway drug to more books. Sure, YA is less "scary" than traditional literature, but that doesn't mean it won't make people read those other books. YA is often shorter and easier to read than, say, contemporary lit or Russian heavyweights, and that's fine. The important thing is to read, period, and because YA isn't really bound by the same genre rules, it's adventurous. Someone who generally hates romances and "weeping bait" (yo!) might find themselves genuinely enjoying it and learning that yes, it's okay to cry hard over fictional characters again. Some YA is "safer" than adult lit, focusing on simpler problems, and that can be a nice vacation when one's partner has lost their job, their kids are struggling in school, and their mother has cancer. And, as mentioned, sometimes simple questions provide the answers for handling complex problems. Escapism can create problems and lead to really bad ideas too, because books do matter, but sometimes simple things can literally inspire a revolution. 

Ultimately, YA is just the flavour of the moment for people who want a whipping boy, something to condemn for the alleged state of ignorance of modern society. However, there's a quote about all our depravity that really needs to be mentioned.

"Our youth now love luxury; They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers."

Oh, my bad. Did I say that was about modern youth? It's by Socrates and it's about the youth in his day and age. There's nothing like whining about them kids to make you feel like you're doing everything much better than they are. The kids are battered and bruised, they are dealing with a new, big, scary world, but at the end of the day, both the kids and their books are all right.

Thanks for dropping by the nest once again. Don't miss any of the phuquerie. Find Michelle on TwitterFacebook, and on Tumblr, and find her work on Amazon. Check back on the blog to see when one of the irregular posts has careened onto your feed. This is the one and only SciFiMagpie, over and out! 

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