Greetings! I’m Johanna Parkhurst, and I’m the author of the young adult novel Every Inferno. I’m incredibly honored to be dropping by The Novel Approach blog today.
Even though I primarily write for young adults, I always enjoy visiting blogs geared towards adult readers. That’s because I so appreciate interacting with adults who read YA literature. For years I lived in a “YA closet,” where I hid my love for writers like Alex Sanchez and Judy Blume away from the prying adult eyes who expected me to read more “sophisticated” novels by the likes of Dan Brown and Virginia Woolf (not that I don’t enjoy books by these authors…I just don’t think I should have to read them at the exclusion of Judy Blume). So when I finally joined the internet world of book readers, I was thrilled to discover that I am actually one of millions and millions of adults who read YA lit…none of whom seem remotely ashamed of their reading preferences.
Lately, though, a blog or two in internet land has suggested that adults who love YA lit should be ashamed. So today, here on this blog created for adults readers, I would like to take a moment and appreciate all the adults out there who love YA books.
Fun fact about me: I love lists. As such, I decided to create a list to express my thanks. And so, I present to you…THE TOP THREE REASONS I’M GLAD ADULTS READ YA LITERATURE.
1. You appreciate that YA world is often ahead of adult world where books are concerned.
Lately a few publications have been noting how much more mainstream it is, these days, to have main characters on the LGBTQ spectrum in YA lit….even though it’s still not that mainstream in adult lit. Let’s face it: the younger generation of the world is often more open to changing societal roles and norms than older generations are. So YA books tend to change these roles and norms first. And by reading and promoting YA lit to other adult, you make it possible for the changes happening in YA lit to eventually take place in adult lit.
My latest book, Every Inferno, features a character named McKinley whose experience being gay in high school is very normative and empowering. Far from being beaten up for his sexual orientation, McKinley is embraced by his peer group and accepted for who he is. McKinley’s life doesn’t really exist in much mainstream adult lit that I’ve read (and if you’ve read some I should be aware of, please let me know), but character like him—characters whose different experiences on the spectrum are embraced and normative—are more and more common in YA lit today. So please, keep reading and promoting YA books that push the envelope for societal change. You make it possible for that same envelope to someday be pushed in adult book world.
2. You’re empowered to get books into teens’ hands.
There are a lot of days when I’m certain no teenager will get access to Every Inferno….because the back of the book states outright that the main character is a depressed alcoholic. And those are the kind of words that make some adults throw that book right back where it came from and keep it as far from teens as possible. But if you’re willing, as an adult, to read Every Inferno, you’ll see pretty quickly that this book is really about a kid struggling with grief and handling his grief in the wrong ways. And then, when you run into teenagers struggling with problems such as grief and alcoholism, you likely won’t be afraid to pass this book and other books like it to those teens.
3. You understand that every story is important, regardless of the age of the person it’s about.
Okay, I’ll call a spade a spade: this whole argument that YA lit is unimportant for adults is ageist. Is JJ’s story in Every Inferno less important than any other story out there just because he’s fifteen? Everyone has a story to tell. All those stories matter, regardless of the character’s age. Just because a fifteen-year-old handles grief and sexual identity struggles and encountering danger differently than an adult would doesn’t make his story of handling those issues any less important. It just makes his story different. So thank you for reading stories about those who are differently-aged than you. Thank you for acknowledging that the stories of children and teens are just as important as the stories of adults.
Whoops…that actually ended up feeling a bit like a tirade. Sorry. It really was intended to be a giant moment of appreciation for all you adults who refuse to be ashamed of your reading habits and happily share YA novels with the world. Please keep reading and sharing these novels with teens and adults alike. No shame! Long live book lovers who appreciate a great book, regardless of the age of its main character.
Blurb: Depressed. Defiant. Possible alcoholic. These are just a few of the terms used to describe fifteen-year-old Jacob Jasper Jones. Lately, though, JJ has a new one to add to the list: detective. He’s been having strange dreams about the fire that killed his parents ten years ago, and he thinks he finally has the clue to catching the arsonist who destroyed his family.
A murder investigation isn’t the only thing the dreams trigger for JJ. They also lead to secret meetings with his estranged sister, an unlikely connection with a doctor who lost his daughter in the fire, and a confusing friendship with McKinley, a classmate of JJ’s who seems determined to help him solve the mystery.
All JJ wants is to shake the problems that have followed him since that fire, and he’s convinced he must catch the arsonist to do it. But as JJ struggles to find the culprit, he sees there’s more than one mystery in his life he needs to solve.
About the Author: Johanna Parkhurst grew up on a small dairy farm in northern Vermont before relocating to the rocky mountains of Colorado. She spends her days helping teenagers learn to read and write and her evenings writing things she hopes they’ll like to read. She strives to share stories of young adults who are as determined, passionate, and complex as the ones she shares classrooms with.
Johanna holds degrees from Albertus Magnus College and Teachers College, Columbia University. She loves traveling, hiking, skiing, watching football, and spending time with her incredibly supportive husband. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or find her on Twitter and Facebook.
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