For a year–maybe two–I only read young adult literature. It was a good time, honestly. YA was new to me, a never-ending surprise every time I went to the library or bookstore. The voice was fresh and urgent. My excitement was furthered by the stories I read. I was voracious, reading 3-4 books a week.
This discovery cannot be minimized. YA literally made me into a fiction reader and, as it happened, writer. Granted, I had a novel–who doesn’t? But I wasn’t actively working on it. It was more a novel in theory, a beat-down car of a theory. The sort of thing I’d tinker with on the weekends.
In YA, I found a missing piece. A kind of freedom to take a chance, to do what I might otherwise not do because it didn’t seem literary or serious or whatever other bullshit word you’d like to trot out. Of course, now I know that the best YA literature can be both literary and serious. At the time, it seemed revolutionary.
I still think it is. But something strange has happened. Maybe it’s the fact that I recently started an MFA program, but I’ve made this weird turn towards reading… adult fiction.
Gasp. Shock. Horror.
While I think adult fiction writers could definitely learn some things from young adult novelists, I’ve been in a place where I have been seeking out literary fiction–wondering what I could learn, how I could bring it back to my own work. How it could make me better. Things like word choice and sentence structure. The way certain authors are highly stylized–I’m totally stealing this from Jeff, by the way–while also being completely clean in their prose. It’s not that this doesn’t happen in YA, but for some reason I need to read something different.
And I think that’s the point: sometimes it’s okay to sit at the adult table. Sometimes it’s okay to take a sip of your parents Champagne when they’re not looking (METAPHOR). Because how else are you going to know what it’s like to experience that first taste? How else will you take different chances later? This, I think, is the the thing that drew me to YA in the first place: the opportunity to throw convention out the window. To look at writing like I want to look at the rest of my life. Basically, to say: “Screw it. Let’s give it a shot.”