I attended a YA writing conference this past weekend (more on that Thursday), and in one of the workshops, a woman said that she found herself drawn to the YA section of the bookstore. She admitted to loving YA, but said that she often pretended like she was shopping for a niece or nephew rather than buying books for herself. A lot of us in the workshop turned to her and smiled, saying things like, "Be proud to read YA!" and "Own it!" Her confession sparked a discussion on why we, as adults, are drawn to read and write YA.
Here's what I think. I think YA offers things that adult literature can't. A lot of children's books refer to a magic possessed only by children, a sense of innocence and faith that are lost when we make the transition into adulthood. It's easy to see this when looking at fiction. Adult fiction (unless you're reading sci-fi or fantasy) is often painfully real. A lot of adult fiction deals with harsh aspects of life, things like divorce and death and pain and loss. I don't know about you, but when I read, I want it to be magical. I want it to take me out of my life (which is often stressful) and show me something I couldn't find around me. I don't want to read about those harsh realities. I want magic and adventure and beauty.
YA offers all those things through the lens of teenagers. Teenagers are strange creatures. They experience things on a more intense scale than adults. Everything is a big deal, because all their emotions are new and raw and (often) frightening. YA is about beginnings, and firsts, and self-discovery, and learning important lessons in the most honest (and sometimes brutal) ways possible. YA is freedom, the freedom to be and do and say anything you want, the freedom to try without caring what people will think, the freedom to explore new possibilities and dream of the impossible.
It is for these reasons that I'm drawn to YA. And it is these reasons that compel me to not only read it, but write it as well. What are yours?
PS For your listening pleasure, check out this video. Not only is the song beautiful (and I know the original has been circulating for a while now), but the level of talent demonstrated in this video is insane!