Silly Adult, Those Books Are For Kids, Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Apr 10 2012 @ 8:50am

by Chris Bodenner

A reader writes:

I have to say that I feel both Stein and Sanchez's points of view. Nothing drives me more crazy than pop Young Adult books and the movies that have driven people to read them. But when you consider the general lack of casual reading amongst most people, should we really discourage it? Everyone should read more – period, regardless of the subject matter. Despite having zero interest in Twilight or Harry Potter, I will admit to having been sucked into the Hunger Games series and having to deal with the self loathing that went along with it. But at the end of the day, the dystopian storyline dovetails nicely with some of my previous, heavier reading on the subject.

Another writes:

Between work, housework and family obligations I have very little time for reading.  I can pick up Hunger Games, read for 10 minutes until the next crisis occurs, put the book down for three days, pick it up again and re-orient myself immediately.  That's harder to do with a War and Peace.


As an elementary school librarian, I had to chime in here.

Three years ago I would have agreed with Joel Stein's assessment of adults reading children's books. However, in my education towards becoming a librarian, I took a Children's Literature course that changed my mind completely. There are many "childrens" books that carry deeply emotional and important ideas, not just for children, but for all people.

For example, the novel Bud, not Buddy deals with abandonment, the desire to know one's family, and self reliance. It does this in a deft and touching way, far better than many "adult" novels with similar themes I have encountered. Yes, the language is simpler and the POV is a child's, but adults can still gain much from the reading. Esperanza Rising is another such book. Even less weighty themes, however, can provide stimulation for the adult mind. To this day I enjoy reading Dr. Seuss books, whether to kindergarteners or myself. In my opinion, every American should read Oh the Places You'll Go! at least once a year. Who else could so eloquently address environmentalism (The Lorax), Mutually Assured Destruction (The Butter Battle Book), and courage in the face of Tyranny (Yertle the Turtle)?

Now, if your opinion is that Twilight itself is just trash, that's another matter entirely. To condemn adults for being interested at literature directed at children, however, does a vast body of great literature disservice.

Another argues that teen lit "might also be for engaged, involved parents who are interested in the kinds of books that their youngsters enjoy." Another illustrates that point:

I was one such adult, sitting on an airplane, reading the Hunger Games.  I actually felt a bit of dread when I first opened the book, thinking, "Am I really going to make myself read this?" However, the teenagers in my house won't stop talking about the books and I feel the need to understand this dystopian content that has consumed their minds.  These so called "kid books" affect the way our kids and teens view and relate in the world and I feel that it is important to take a look through their Hunger Games lens, if only that I may understand the kids in my life more.  


My daughter and I have spent countless hours discussing the Harry Potter and Hunger Games series.  These covered everything from the author’s motivations, why certain plot elements did or didn’t work, or even how the movie casting met our expectations.  I’ll be forever grateful that I have had this opportunity to connect  with her and hope it continues throughout her teenage years.  If I had been a snob about the YA label, I would have missed out on some wonderful books but also so much more.

Regardless, I’m still not reading Twilight.