When the Emperor Has No Clothes

In the last few months, I have found myself drawn, once again, to young adult novels.

In the years since I graduated with a degree in evaluating works of literature, I have found most adult novels that I have read to be pretentious piles of solid waste matter.

I suspect I am simply bad at judging a book by its cover. My track record is so bad that book covers have come to haunt my nightmares, mocking me with their misleading descriptions and cover art. In some of these dreams, flocks of books, flying with outstretched covers and rows of sharp little teeth have chased me, forcing me down blind alleys, determined to chew my face right off, or leave tiny cuts with their pages in awkward, sensitive areas.

When those little book monsters arrive, I finally understand why someone might want to expose them to a flame in the neighborhood of 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Aside from nightmares featuring monster tomes, the books that have moved me to tears, inflicted authentic emotional connections, inspired my imagination, and remained a part of my soul are those written for young adults.

No, I am not talking about Twilight.

Every time I think about the wonderful words written for young adults, I feel like someone’s going to call me a fraud, and decide that my years of study were clearly for nothing, and I should give back my diploma.

I feel like I’m the kid in the fable about the Emperor’s new wardrobe trying to point out that the King is walking about starkers, and everyone is appalled that I would use the word “starkers” (It’s British for naked).

Occasionally, I can read something “adult,” where I can appreciate that it is well-written, has layers of interesting subtext, and in the final analysis, simply not my taste.

Most of the time, however, taste never enters into it.

I suspect that many who graduate, with the weight of the mantel of academia draped upon their shoulders, feel like a novel without ponderous symbols and convoluted structures is beneath their notice. Clearly, if it doesn’t give you an aneurism to figure out the plot, it is not a serious piece of literature and should be denounced immediately as a frivolous waste of paper.

If, however, there is not only an aneurism, but, it is necessary to translate a nonexistent language, track multiple points of view, streams of consciousness, genealogies and timelines, then, and only then, is it a brilliant and masterful piece of fiction. Books that make you cry? Manipulative drivel, unless the crying is caused by the aneurism of trying to remember which personality of the hero’s multiple personality disorder is talking to the lady who speaks in code, while juggling a red polar bear, a clock and a highly meaningful sardine.

I think I’m going to avoid the sardines, thanks, and curl up with some of this delightful drivel. The prose is clear and filled with wonderfully evocative imagery, it’s got characters that remind me of real people, and it makes me happy I can read. Good enough for me.

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