There are a couple easy answers, so let’s start with those:
Another easy answer is the strong religious influence in this area, which means that people are often looking for “clean” literature. Now, just because something’s in teen, does that mean it’s “clean”? No. But most people don’t know that. And so they think they can read anything YA without fear of too much swearing or sex. These people I kindly steer away from anything I would describe as “edgy….”
But I think Utah County’s obsession goes deeper. As much as I see the two groups I already mentioned, there are two even bigger groups: housewives and college students.
Here’s my theory: Young adult fiction moves faster than adult fiction. It doesn’t waste a single word. Even literary young adult fiction has to be interesting, while literary adult fiction, unfortunately, often just has to sound pretty.
College students are busy and in general, don’t have time for fiction. So if something is going to drag them from their studies, it had better generate constant suspense and never slow down enough to let them think, “I should really be studying right now…” Another thing, it should be smart, so they don’t feel like it’s just brain candy. With the example of Hunger Games, it can both keep them frantically flipping pages, as well as provide them with sociological aspects that they can correlate with all that, you know, “smart stuff” they teach you in college.
Now the other group is housewives. Let me tell you, housewives are the busiest, most harried people I see in the store. Business professionals? Naw, they’ve got their whole lunch hour. But mothers are juggling a crying baby, a toddler who just learned how to run and climb bookshelves, and a whining middle grader who doesn’t understand why he has to do a book report on a biography instead of a fantasy.
How these women find time to read is beyond me. But they do. And they make the time for YA lit. I think part of it is the same reasons as the college students…it’s intelligent and fast-paced. But I think another part of it is the natural escapism that is in YA. With things like adult sci-fi and fantasy, you have to really be paying attention to figure out the government, the terrain, the maps, and sometimes even the language…not the easiest thing to do while multi-tasking. But YA will take you far away into incredible storylines and fantasies without making you memorize too much. It can make you relive all the good and bad parts of high school without (re)traumatizing you. Hopefully.
Those are my thoughts on it…what do you guys think? Are there other reasons that YA does well in this area?