I wonder how The Hobbit would have been categorized had it been written today. I recall someone saying (and I forget who) that The Hobbit is fairy tale, The Lord of the Rings is legend, and the Silmarillion is myth. The Hobbit doesn’t quite match up with what one would normally think of as young adult, but for me it has that whimsical feeling that I associate with some of those types of stories—either for young adult or middle grade.
This touches on one of the reasons that I like reading those stories, not middle-grade so much (though I’m not opposed to them; I simply haven’t read much in that vein) but certainly young adult. They say that the psychology of young adult fiction is such that the reader wants to emulate the protagonists, and you’ll often hear “two years” for the sweet spot in age differential from reader to protagonist. Thus, is your protags are sixteen-ish, your target readers are fourteen-ish. Maybe that’s true. It seems to make some sense. But the reason I read YA fiction is kind of on the opposite side of that equation. I want to be swept back to a simpler time. And by that I mean I like the feelings of childhood that reading those stories drums up in me. I led a pretty idyllic childhood in an area that was kind of on the cusp of urban and suburban.
My grade school (Berryville Elementary in Kenosha, WI) was one of those red brick school houses straight out of School House Rock. (That the school was torn down and apartments built on the property still saddens me.) And when I read about those young protagonists, I leap back to those days, which at the time I’m sure had normal, every-day stresses but that now looks very quaint from this forty-something’s somewhat jaded viewpoint.
Strangely (or perhaps not so strangely) it doesn’t seem to matter what type of “young fiction” I’m reading. Much of it reminds me of that time period. I could be reading Harry Potter, and the winding staircases of Hogworts reminds me of running up the three flights at Berryville. Or I could be reading The Mysterious Benedict Society, and I’m reminded of wondering what all the rooms in the school contain, the rooms I’ve never been to or the back closets in the ones I have.
There are others that remind me more of my high school, like Holly Black’s Tithe and Valiant, or Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games or Steve Berman’s Vintage. But the effect of being transported is the same, it’s just to a slightly different time and place. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy these stories in and of themselves. It’s just that I get additional enjoyment from them that I don’t get from reading adult fiction.
Like Courtney, I don’t care too much how something is categorized. Categories are a marketing tool. What I care about is how I enjoy the read. But I must admit that there’s something magical about reliving a bit of my youthful innocence, or sometimes the loss of that innocence, through fiction.Read More...