Friday, May 13, 2011

Booking Through Thursday - Age Appropriate

Do you read books “meant” for other age groups? Adult books when you were a child; Young-Adult books now that you’re grown; Picture books just for kicks … You know … books not “meant” for you. Or do you pretty much stick to what’s written for people your age?

This is an interesting question. Recently, I have been mulling over the term Crossover. It seems that the more common usage for Crossover is for books that are written for young readers, but enjoyed by adults. Does the term work the other way around – books written for adults that appeal to young readers?

When I began 7th grade, I started to read adult books. The first one was Majorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk. I still love Herman Wouk and recently reread this novel. It was every bit as good as I remembered it.

From Marjorie, I went on to others and I never looked back to the books of childhood. That is, not until I started reading my daughter’s books. After that, I found myself engrossed in books by J.K. Rowling, Philip Pullman and Avi, to name a few. Now I read a mix, in other words, I read what appeals to me regardless of who it was written for. Otherwise, I would have missed books like The Hunger Games or those wonderful fantasy novels of Diana Wynne Jone, but not the vampire novels that are so abundant now. Not a big fan of vampires, I’m afraid.

Confession time – at 12, I didn’t always understand everything I read in adult books. For example, I remember reciting a little poem I read in Leon Uris’ Battle Cry at the dinner table one night, something about a rifle and a gun, fighting and fun. My parents almost choked on their dinner, and suggested I forget that poem, and to please not repeat to anyone else. This makes me wonder, what kinds of books would be suitable as Crossovers? The adult book that has a young protagonist, like Emma Donoghue's novel The Room, with its 5 year old narrator? Or one narrated from an adult point of view, like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, but has an important child character, the narrator’s son. What about books that have no child characters? I saw a young girl reading the new Jodie Picoult novel Sing You Home on the subway one day, and she appeared totally engrossed in it. I actually had the temerity to ask her if she liked the book. She was very enthused about it. I also thought it was good.

So I asked myself the following: if my blog is about books set in World War II, what adult books would be appropriate for teen readers? Probably Neville Schute’s novel Pied Piper, about an older man who rescues some children from France during the Nazi invasion of that country, would appeal to teens. But what about Herman Wouk’s masterful Winds of War and War and Remembrance? (Not that I am biased about Herman or anything) Certainly, Connie Willis’s Blackout and All Clear have a great deal of appeal to teen readers and with good reason, they are excellent, but they are really adult novels.

I have pondered these things over and over in my mind. Now I ask you:

What do you think makes a good crossover book for teens?

Booking Through Thursday is a weekly blog hop

I apologize to the people who left comments before the Blogger snafu.  They were lost along with my original post.


  1. Trying this comment again! Found this post very interesting. I expect you have read "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusack, surely a book about children's war, and perhaps you have discussed it earlier on this blog before I discovered you. I read this novel and found it very strong, and very moving, and only later discovered that it had originally been categorized as a Young Adult book. This surprised me because I was a young adult many decades ago, and the book spoke directly to me.

  2. I am glad you found this post interesting. I have read "The Book Thief" but I have not discussed it yet. It bears rereading before I can do that, since it is very strong and moving, as you point out. I did know when I read it that it was YA, but I have also found that a lot of YA literature is excellent for the same reasons that "The Book Thief" is.
    It amazes me how many YA and adult authors set books in World War II and how different they can be from one another.
    Have you read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas? or Traitor by Gudrun Pausewang?

  3. I wrote quite a bit about my own book experiences in my BTT entry, but I wanted to comment on what you said. I realized when I was a little older that kids will read what they want to read (I sure did!) and if they don't understand the more adult thoughts, they don't let it bother them. Probably because they have no frame of reference for it? I'm not so sure about the WWII books, because I haven't really read a lot of adult books that would actually appeal to teens in that genre. (And really, I'm not that good judge of what should teens read since I was reading adult books when I was in grade school)

  4. I think you are right about teen not being bothered by what is out of their frame of reference, or they just misinterprete what they read. I too am unsure of what would appeal to teen readers in terms of WW II adult books, though I can see where some definitely would. Thanks for your thoughts on this.

  5. Thanks for the suggestions, Alex. I have not read the two books you mention ("Boy in Striped Pajamas" or "Traitor." Will look for them.