The Atlantic has an article up today about why so many adults read YA literature. It has a whole big section fighting back against the idea that YA is escapist literature.
I can’t imagine how anybody would think YA is escapist literature. I’ve only read two YA novels in my life that didn’t leave me depressed and wishing I hadn’t (one of them was about star-crossed lesbian lovers, and the other was about how to be an anorexic).
However, I love kids’ books. The people in them go out in the woods, bring home wild hedgehogs, invent things, hide in hollow trees, try out pioneer skills, dream of flying among the stars or plunging through the sea, make believe … they have this big, wide world, and if the books are fantasy they have several big, wide worlds. But apparently as soon as readers become YA, they are supposed to stop caring about anything except social relations, budding romance, the disease of the week, the issue of the month, and how to navigate a dystopia. Even if a YA protagonist gets a talking horse or soul-bonds with a dragon, it will only lead to Issues.
I’m one of those kids who never made the switch. To me, YA novels say there is no escape from the constraints of human society, even if you have magical powers. Fairy and folk tales, however, say that anybody who steps out into the woods has the opportunity to escape into a big, wide, wonderful world. They say that the escape is right there all the time, if we just turn towards it.