The Peter Pan Predicament
If growing up means it would be beneath my dignity to climb a tree, I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up! Not me!
— J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
Do you ever experience any of the following:
- Wondering if a lull in your co-workers’ conversation means they were talking about you?
- Trying on multiple outfits to make sure you have just the right look?
- Questioning (with a slight sense of anticipation) the meaning of the gas station clerk’s, “Have a good night” to you when it’s only 3:00 in the afternoon. Could it be some sort of code indicating that you’re the chosen one to save the world from the Capital, Dark Lord, Empire, mean girl in the locker room, …?
- Rushing to meet your husband as he returns home from work to be sure you don’t waste one moment of your time together, feeling his kiss burn on your skin even after he’s pulled away, and seeing a slight sparkle as his arm passes through a shaft of sunlight streaming from the window?
These could be signs of a YA book-induced Peter Pan Predicament: the state in which we, sound-minded adults, revert, just a bit, to our teenage selves as a result of reading too many YA novels (if there can ever be too many).
While the above is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, a study reported by Bowker Market Research in September of 2012 stated that 55% of buyers of YA books are over 18, with most of them being between 30 and 44. Further the study disclosed that 78% of those buyers were purchasing the books for their own reading. Shock and awe! Those of us who have been a part of YA for a while are not surprised. In fact, I chose to post on this topic because I saw so many adults checking out materials in the YA section of my own library and wondered what the numbers looked like. While we could discuss the research and what it actually shows, I’m much more interested in the reasons that YA is so appealing to adults.
While many point to the extreme popularity of The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and Twilight books and movies, everyone has an opinion on the why of the upsurge in YA book sales among adults. The answer is probably very simply that many YA books are brilliant! They combine great writing, awesome characters, creative plots, clear themes, and a willingness to take risks.
YA books are also often highly emotional in a variety of ways. These emotions draw adults as well as teens. Many adults have worked through our first intimate relationship, gone to college, navigated high school, and so on, and we find strong emotions in re-living those moments. However, while YA books usually cover those more mundane topics in some way, most also include experiences the majority of adults have never encountered but that definitely entice us with the prospect of adventure. This too is part of the Peter Pan Predicament. Remember:
To die (and to love) would be an awfully big adventure.
— J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
YA books certainly can take the reader into these realms of emotion.
What’s the draw for you?
— Michelle Blank, currently reading The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna