What to make of Joel Stein? He’s a humor writer who (sometimes) makes serious points, and as a result, his readers sometimes miss the argument beneath the humor, or miss the humor on top of the argument. His latest essay, “Adults Should Read Adult Books,” in the New York Times, is causing quite a kerfuffle:
I have no idea what “The Hunger Games” is like. Maybe there are complicated shades of good and evil in each character. Maybe there are Pynchonesque turns of phrase. Maybe it delves into issues of identity, self-justification and anomie that would make David Foster Wallace proud. I don’t know because it’s a book for kids. I’ll read “The Hunger Games” when I finish the previous 3,000 years of fiction written for adults.
As you’d expect, the piece has generated hundreds of comments on the NYT website and Twitter, as well as longer-form responses elsewhere. Here’s Alison Flood in The Guardian:
In my view, there’s some truly amazing “young adult” writing out there that adults would be childish to overlook. There’s also some dreadful tripe. But, while holding my hand up as someone who has read Twilight and Harry Potter, and is avidly reading The Hunger Games right now, there’s tripe to be found among adult literature too.
And anyway, sometimes we need the bad stuff. Sometimes, Joel Stein, books aren’t for learning, because sometimes – for me, at least – they need to be the mental equivalent of a bar of Cadbury’s chocolate.
Serious or not, Stein’s piece points at a trend we’ve seen more and more: adults reading books that are (ostensibly) for “young adults.” So here’s a multiple-choice pop quiz: Is this an issue of (A) marketing? (B) social immaturity? (C) None of the above? (D) All of the above?
- Some argue that young adult lit (YA) is actually TOO dark for teens
- The New York Times has tackled the age “limits” of YA before
- Can YA tackle serious issues, like feminism or sexuality? Many argue yes!