Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games and now Divergent — young adult fiction is having a moment, and adults are part of it.
In a piece for New York magazine, Jen Doll explores what's so alluring about coming of age stories:
Why do I, and other adults, read books for teens? In late August, YA author Malinda Lo asked adults to offer up their thoughts on the subject via Twitter, along with the hashtag #whyadultsreadYA. “I enjoy the immediacy of the stories and the sense of being at the beginning of the path of who you’ll become,” tweeted @sesinkhorn. “I love the intensity of 1st time experiences, experimentation, & growth that we’re told to stop doing as adults,” added @sarahockler. When I asked Sandie Angulo Chen, co-founder of the blogTeen Lit Rocks, for her theory, she said, “I think it’s about having that desire to connect with the you that’s still young, having that appreciation for that time in your life and wanting to reconnect with it.”
I'm definitely one of those people who loves teen fiction, teen TV shows and coming of age stories. I agree with the person who referenced the "intensity" of first time experiences — there's something about the heightened emotions and this-moment-defines-who-I-am consequences that just feels satisfying. I have enjoyed and become absorbed in the angst of The Catcher in the Rye, the awkwardness in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, the mental anguish in It's Kind of a Funny Story, the dreamy world weaved into the Weetzie Bat books, the soapy drama of Spoiled, the lives of teen flappers in Vixen, and I read every single deliciously evil book in the hit-close-to-home NYC-based Gossip Girl series. Obviously I read books for grown-ups, too, but being immersed in a young adult world taps into a different side of myself. Sometimes it's removed: "aw, man, these kids have so many problems." But more often it's that I relate, remember, and feel a certain nostalgia for the time when I was less jaded, when highs and lows were so high and so low and my heart overflowed with feels.
As Doll writes:
There’s a kind of forward momentum, too, enabled by reading about characters for whom lives are still blank slates ready to be filled, compared to our own. We can measure ourselves against their choices and see how we succeeded; we can feel wiser than they are, knowing that what we did then turned out okay; we can also see for ourselves where there might still be room to improve. As dire as the situations may be—the worlds of these characters contain creatures bent on destroying them, untrustworthy adults, grave injustices, unrequited or deeply problematic love, abuse, bullying, suicide, murder, paralyzing self-doubt—there is the sense that things have the potential to get better.