"What are the kids reading?" Adults are asking this question more often these days, not so much out of mild curiosity or parental interest, but as a way of getting book referrals for themselves. The recent success of Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games series among multi-generational audiences, as well as the Twilight series before that, illustrates a willingness of adults to tune into youth culture for the next big thing.
I recall my Larkspur ferry commute in the late 1990s being packed with professionals reading Harry Potter, some hidden behind newspapers and magazines. But the Harry Potter craze did seem to make it ok for adults to read titles written for "kids." A recent study covered in the LA Times reported that 55% of people buying teen fiction are over the age of 18, and 75% of them are buying it for themselves.
Books written for youth are not necessarily easy or simple. Though the quality of writing can of course vary, children's and young adult titles can be excellently written, containing complex and riveting story lines. Lev Grossman, Times Magazine book critic and author, noted that young adult fiction tends to be character and story-driven, with clear prose, and if of course focused on characters that are young. He thinks that many adult readers appreciate the faster pace of these books, and assumes that, since most of us were once young, we relate easily to these characters even though several decades might separate us from them age-wise.
Check out our new What the Kids are Reading booklist for some recommendations. You'll find some classics and some new ones. Let us know if you think something's missing!