Monday, February 9, 2015

Warning: CONTAINS IMMATURE CONTENT

As a school librarian I have many, many days when a patron will walk in and announce that they hate books, or that reading is stupid. And that's fine. They're probably into something that I think is incredibly stupid, and I usually tell them that and we agree to disagree. Then I go about attempting to change their mind, because that's kind of my job. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail. And to be fair, sometimes they change my mind too. *cough* Dark Souls *cough*

I find myself in the position of defending books very often, and occasionally it's hard to know whether I'm doing it as a writer, reader, or librarian. Lately a lot of people have been talking about the amount of adults reading YA. I've seen figures as high as 77% of the teen titles sold are being bought by adults. And I think that's awesome. 

I don't care if 77% of the world is only reading the back of cereal boxes - they're still reading.

What does bother me is when readers - of any age - get upset about teen characters being immature. Because I'm a reference geek I went to the dictionary for this one, and the truth is that in most cases the word immature is being used correctly.


Yes, most teen characters lack the characteristics of adults. They're supposed to. 

But teens also retain a sense of wonder that most adults have lost, and I include myself in that some days. The daily grind of going to work, paying bills, worrying about the bottom line, graying hairs, flagging energy... all the elements of real life that in some ways dull us to our own emotions and the awesomeness of just being alive. 

Being alive means having experiences that we learn from - good ones and bad ones. We make a lot of wrong decisions when we're young, which is how we develop into adults who make rational choices. I work with teens forty hours a week. I see decisions being made every day, the conclusions they thought were perfectly logical falling down around their ears. 

So when characters behave that way in books I'm not surprised or frustrated. It's because they're not finished or perfected, not completely grown or developed.

And that's why they're interesting.

4 comments:

Debra McKellan said...

I guess they forget that they're reading YA. They're not going to get Tolstoy. lol

Matt Sinclair said...

I like your point, Mindy. I read more YA than I used to, and while I don't have that complaint about the characters, I really think your point hits the nail on the head.

Frank Verdun said...

Who wants to read any story about characters who are finished developing, except humor or a flash piece where character development is beside the point? Seems to me that would make for a pretty boring read.

And by development I don't necessarily mean growth in any positive or traditional sense. Lovecraft made a career out of chronicling his characters' descent into madness and some of those stories are about as close to perfection as you're likely to find in English (in the I-don't-know-exactly-what-he's-doing-to-me-but-I-think-I-like-it kind of way).

Mindy McGinnis said...

Thank you everyone!

Frank - I agree, and I said something similar on my Facebook page yesterday. A character arc involves growth or change in a positive or negative manner, and madness is a great example of the latter.