A lot has been written recently about YA novels not being for adults, criticising the choices of those who do choose to read them.
I don’t want to continue that debate, but instead think about what it means to fall in love with a book that you know is flawed.
No book is perfect of course, and reading is a subjective activity: each reader will understand a novel in different ways, appreciate or become frustrated by different elements.
After years as an English Literature student, a book reviewer and a writer, there is always a part of my brain that will approach any story critically. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to switch it off. I can recognise the flaws in a novel, but that often won’t stop me from enjoying it.
For me, the Twilight series encapsulates this phenomenon perfectly. The later books could easily be hundreds of pages shorter, especially if the ‘show don’t tell’ mantra was enforced. At times I’d love to make Bella toughen up a bit and make a decision, or tell her that she has other options apart from dying for love.
But ultimately, I still love the story. I can pick up any of the novels and get lost in that world and that relationship. Those details still frustrate me in an objective sense, but my emotional side always wins out.
It’s like the boys vs. girls quiz scene in Friends, where one question asks what Rachel claims is her favourite film. The answer is Dangerous Liaisons. It’s quickly followed by the second question: what is her actual favourite film? Weekend at Bernie’s isn’t such a high brow response.
Sometimes readers are made to feel that if they take books seriously they should read the classics or immerse themselves in literary fiction, or at the very least those novels that have been shortlisted for the big awards. It’s the same line of reasoning that suggests adults shouldn’t read YA.
If I only ever read intellectual or difficult novels, I’d struggle to maintain my passion for books. Now that I’m no longer an English student, I don’t approach books in the same way so I don’t always get the same in-depth understanding of a challenging text that I would if I was discussing it in seminars or reading critical essays.
But reading doesn’t always have to be about learning or challenging yourself. Sometimes it’s enough to crack open a book for the sheer escapism, the guilty pleasure of reading something that you know is a bit trashy, but will sweep you up in the story and have you frantically turning the pages to see what happens next.