To Read Adult or YA?

I can’t remember where I found the question yesterday, but someone was asking whether there was value in YA reading classics. Through the years I have gone back and forth on this issue. Many of the books deemed classics seem random and not all that great, to me. Sometimes they are only examples of their time period. Sometimes they were controversial when they were published. Either way they may be meaningless without understanding the time period. Sometimes the style in which the books are written is why they are acclaimed. So, for my kids I haven’t pushed the classics all that much so far.

But I have reached a turning point. My oldest is 16. He and I both love reading YA, but he (and I sometimes) are needing more challenge. From what I have read of YA, the major advantage of adult books (especially classics, but not limited to classics) is that they pose more of a challenge than YA. The content can be very similar, but I have only run across a few YA books that can stand up to the complexity of classics or more literary adult books. It seems to me that there is less playing with the language (though I have seen some) in YA literature. With many of the classics there is a stronger feel of creating art. The gap, of course, could narrow in the future.

The importance, to me, of this difference is that there is great beauty in looking at stories as a form of art and playing with the form of it. I love to read books of which I can savor the language or smoothly written metaphors. Is this not why Shakespeare is so loved and taught? Another factor is that most parents want their children to go to college. To read the material in college requires having been challenged in reading in earlier years. Otherwise, college ends up harder than it should be. Writing is easier also if the student has been in the habit of reading an extensive vocabulary.  I like that YA is being used in high schools now, but I do think the students should also be encouraged to read adult (and I don’t mean the light weight stuff), especially in the last 2 years.

So, I am trying to throw in some classics. Ones I’ve read and not read. And I am open to suggestions for adult/classic books for teens. This is why I have been participating in The Year of Reading Dangerously challenge (though I haven’t read the discussion books-yet). I would like to continue to read more challenging books once a month, and have my son do so also.

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