I have an essay in this week’s issue of The New York Times Book Review on grownups who love to read children’s books. Yes, I include myself among them. Everything about this essay was a pleasure. First of all, what fun to write about something you love, and I’ll give anything to devote more brainspace to The Hunger Games, at least until I can get my hands on Mockingjay, the third installment in Suzanne’s Collins’ amazing dystopian trilogy. But it was also wonderful to get to talk to so many amazing authors, agents, and editors about why they love young adult literature too. Several of the people I talked to were friends, like the always inspiring Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and four other fantastic books. But others were people I didn’t know before but have long admired, like Amanda Foreman.
I truly had so much good material and got to learn so much about the wonderful kids’ books that people like that it was one of the hardest times I’ve had keeping a story to one page. One of the interesting discussions that didn’t make it into the final piece, but I’ll bring up here, is what makes a book YA to begin with?
Is “To Kill a Mockingbird” for children because it’s about children or has it somehow acquired its de facto designation by high school curricula arbiters nationwide? Should “Wuthering Heights,” with its abusive behavior and sordid breakdowns, be considered a child’s tale? My friend Jennifer Joel, an agent at ICM, insists that all true YA are coming-of-age novels. “Every good YA book is about what it’s like to become an adult. Whether it’s first love or first loss it feels like the whole world is at stake,” she explains. But then, young protagonists also exist in very grownup books. What do you think? What makes a book recommended reading for teenagers? And what are your favorite YA books?
I have a new story in yesterday’s Styles section of The New York Times about couples who separate and stay separated indefinitely, rather than proceeding directly to divorce. Call them the Undivorced. (I did.) The comments section is really fascinating. While it would be impossible to quantify whether the number of these undivorced couples is growing, it is clearly not uncommon. Many people wrote about various iterations in their own families.
Yesterday I wrote about a new study highlighting potential problems for people who move a lot during childhood. The study raised a lot of interesting questions, some of which it answered statistically, some hypothetically. Does moving during childhood negatively affect people? Do the affects last past childhood, shaping who we are as adults? Do the reasons for the move matter? Are children whose parents from the military different from other kids in the way their experience dislocation? I found that the comments posed on The New York Times website, where people really opened up and shared their own experiences, really enriched the story. I was also very excited to see that the story hit the top 25 most emailed stories for the entire NYT website. And I am grateful to Lisa Belkin for pointing readers to the story on her Motherlode blog.