Friday, June 15, 2007

young adults?

Anybody who gets blurbed by Ursula K le Guin has my deep and enduring respect. So when I saw the cover of Vandana Singh's book, Younguncle Comes To Town (published in India by Young Zubaan) I picked it up* without a second thought.

And make no mistake, this is a fun book to read. It has monkeys that wear shirts and read books upside down, babies that eat them (the shirts, not the monkeys or the books, though the last wouldn’t surprise me), a mother Who Talks In Capitals, and other eccentric characters. Also, any book for young people that doesn’t contain an edifying moral automatically has my support.

My only quibble, really, is the categorisation: why is this a book for Young Adults? If literature for Young Adults is meant for those between 15 and 18 years of age, this is the wrong book for them. Can you remember what you were reading when you were 15? It sure as hell wouldn’t be something like Younguncle. I was done with Gone With The Wind and all the trashy Jeffrey Archer type novels at 12. Between the years of 15 and 18 I – and I’m sure many of you – did your heaviest reading. If at 15, you’re not ambitious about the range of literature you want to absorb, you’re going to spend your adult years reading (mostly) comforting pap.

I think adults routinely underestimate the understanding of, to use the current terminology, Young Adults. The kind of books they categorise as being fit for this age groups is pathetic. Ursula le Guin’s Earthsea series is supposed to be for Young Adults, and admittedly has some complex ideas; but I’d still put it firmly in the Children’s Books slot.

The mistake adults often make, I think, is in assuming that people of that age want to read about characters that are also of the same age. But anyone who remembers their own adolescence knows that what one wants cleared up is not the teenage years, but the complex and often incomprehensible world of adults, in which one inevitably has take one’s place.

Younguncle, in the Zubaan edition, also has a very kiddie typeface for the numbering of pages which seems to reflect their confusion about what they really mean when they say Young Adults. And lovely though the book is, a seven year old could enjoy it as much as I did. What does that say about categories?

* Of course, I had a vested interest in finding out what kind of stuff Young Zubaan publishes, but that is another story


Banno said...

Yes, the categories confuse me too. I too finished reading James Hadley Chase and Jeffrey Archer by the time I was 12. And now, I like reading Aiman's books! Will pick up Young Uncle

SUR NOTES said...

hey d do contact them with your work.
have you read their, zubaan, not young zubaan, 21 under 40 ? some lovely writing.

Space Bar said...

Banno: Do. Now's a perfect time for the book, actually!

Sur: see footnote.

SUR NOTES said...

hey foonote link does not open.

anita & amit said...

i feel that YA fict abroad is like, lightyears ahead of anything that we do here - irrespective of how good specific books might be... even non-serious, series writers like jacqueline wilson deal with startlingly REAL themes. so you go, sridala - write for them! and maybe sear a few sensibilities!

Swar Thounaojam said...

There is this girl in my Theatre Lab - 6th std lady - Murakami is her fav author. I am, at a young 26, reading Pippi Longstocking and loving it.

Space Bar said...

Sur: Footnote right there in tiny font size at the bottom of the post

Anita: Anita, my point, partially at least, is that the categorisation seems like the product of some clever marketing person (hey! why don't we have people write to this specific age group?). 'Young Adults' will find recongnisable characters and themes that speak to them in what is considered 'adult' fiction. Why on earth would they need a special category?

And what of books like Catcher in the Rye?

I think publishers dumb down by treating them as a special like of idiot adult; they ought to, instead, let them get on with reading the difficut stuff.

Space Bar said...

Swar: See? this si exactly what i meant! :D