Kernels of Nonsense, #3: Book Snobbery

Kernels of Nonsense (2)Kernels of Nonsense is a weekly feature on my blog where I discuss various book-related topics. As always, feel free to comment.

I read a lot of YA books, despite no longer being in my teens. In fact, I read more YA books now than I ever did when I was a teenager. If you’re like me, you’ve probably come across a person or two who scoff at your choice of reading material. They’re the ones who find it silly to read a young adult or children’s book. After all they’re far too mature to dip their toe into such frivolous and inferior literature.

What a dreadful thing to limit yourself!

I am not tall, I am not blond, I am not rich, I am not sweet, I am not a boy, I am not loud, I am not in love with my best friend. I’ve never had feelings for two people at once, I’ve never had a whirlwind romance while overseas. No one has ever tried to murder me, I don’t have lantent psychic abilities (that I know of). I don’t believe in aliens, witchcraft, or fairies. I’ve never shot a bow and arrow, I’ve never thrown a punch (my anger is expressed in a more linguistic manner), or wielded a katana. But for a few hours while I read I can be any or all of these things.

The point of reading is to walk in someone else’s shoes, to see things from their perspective, to know the woes and joys of someone not myself. Sometimes this means I’m a sage old woman searching for a lost locket. At other times I am a child just beginning to see the wisdom of his mother. And still other times I am a teen, tasting the bliss and bite of first love. I don’t limit my experiences based on my own age. Some of my very favorite books were written for children and this does not minimize their brilliance.

What always troubles me is that those who look down on novels written from the perspective of young adults or children seem to forget that these books were not actually written by a young protagonist. Behind young adult literature are adults who understand the importance of writing from a young person’s perspective and that their point-of-view can be just as important as an adult’s. Do these people not remember what it was like to be a young and have their opinion dismissed simply because of their age? Surely they must remember the sting, but it seems that too many adults have become that which they despised.

What a sad thing to say we can no longer enjoy children’s stories because we are no longer children. Stories are most potent when you are a child. Your imagination is limitless. The feel of the monster’s eyes is more real, the terror that something is in the closet doesn’t feel like make-believe, the sound of breathing does not disappear because you will it. Stories are infinitely more tangible, and books that you cannot fall wholly into are not half as enjoyable.

So don’t ever feel that because you are now an adult, young adult books or children’s books are off-limits. I find that these books can be the most magical and the most rewarding to read.

I leave you with this quote by C.S. Lewis, who is far better at conveying what I wish to say than I will ever be:

“Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”