Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell

Why So Many Adults Love to Read YA

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Jun• 12•19

Summer might be only a week away, but temperatures are hitting near 100 today. I’m in a bit of trouble in the watering department because I’ve been buying more than my share of ‘rescue’ plants lately. A nearby Fred Meyers garden department marks them down and I’m lured to them like other people might be to stray kittens.  Yesterday I came home with a Miss Kim lilac, 2 hydrangeas, 2  sunflowers, and 2 others whose name escapes me, but they’re pale purple and flourish in my yard.  I plant a lot of purple and blue.

This summer I have a new raised bed that’s 4X8 and 2 feet high. I’ve planted 7 tomatoes with an emphasis on Brandywines, my other bed has at least 8 volunteer tomatoes in it, the beans are off to a slow start, the basil loves this hot weather, mint is spreading as fast as I contain it,  and I’m battling slugs because apparently they adore tomato leaves.So gardening is taking up a lot of time, my back complains, and the results are soul-satisfying and delicious.

Ever since I learned to read I’ve spent many languorous hours in the summer reading. I was thinking back to that first week or two when school was over and summer stretched so full of promise and books and small adventures.

If you’re like me your to-read pile of books doesn’t diminish, it grows. And grows. And sometimes topples over.   And then if you mix in books you plan to reread… well, a  vacation cannot come soon enough.

As if your book collection isn’t big enough, I want to suggest that you also read YA (young adult). You’ll be in good company because 55% YA books are read by adults. In this Atlantic article Caroline Kitchner, a professor of young adult literature (what a great gig!) outlines why YA fiction is so compelling.  I agree with John Green that the emotional intensity and freshness of YA pulls me in, especially in a coming-of-age story where the protagonist is experiencing ‘firsts’–first love, first great loss, first taste of independence, first major moral dilemma.

Reading YA can teach writers how to get their story off to a quick and rollicking start because often the inciting incident occurs on the first page. YA literature can teach how to craft fiction on a budget since these novels typically fall into the 55-75,000 word range. And it needs to be said; some of our best contemporary writers are writing young adult fiction.

Here’s the middle grade (ages 9-12) novel  I’m reading now by the talented Randall Platt, Professor Renoir’s Collection of Oddities, Curiosities, and Delights.  It’s set in 1896 and is about a real-life giant girl, Babe Killingsworth. By her 14th birthday she measures 6’9″ and weighs 342 pounds. She lives in her father’s barn with the animals she loves. She doesn’t go to school because she can’t fit at a desk and the teasing from the other kids is unmerciful. Oh, and her pa is about to sell her off to a traveling carnival and Professor Renoir, a man of dubious reputation. I don’t know about you, but I adore a good misfit story.

Keep writing, keep reading, have heart

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

One Comment

  1. It’s too hot to be out in the garden! I like raised beds, both for their organized look and their ease of access. We have a long rectangular bed on one side of the house. It’s the only bed on the property that gets consistent sunlight so before we moved here had begun its life as the veggie patch. We turned it into a faux French parterre garden with four raised quadrants and marigold borders (to discourage munching insects). I loved it…until fifteen years finally saw the supporting timbers beginning to rot and collapse. Bit by bit I’ve turned it back into a conventional bed with shrubs and perennials that pretty much maintain themselves. That’s my ideal as arthritis makes much gardening difficult. Now I’m content to do minimal upkeep and spend more time in the summer reading on the deck.

    I wasn’t drawn to YA until my daughter began writing it. It was while beta-reading her drafts and meeting some of her YA author friends that I discovered its appeal. (Now she’s writing MG and I’m loving those stories, too.)