A teacher would write a statement on the board. You would have to come up with arguments for and against that statement.
Let's get nostalgic in the hizzy today, shall we?
"Young adult literature, for the most part, is about the story and the characters. Adult fiction is often about making some theoretical point about life/death/middle age, and all the philosophizing/navel gazing can get in the way."
I did not come up with that statement, my lovely friend ... (um, let's go with Rebecca today, shall we?) did in an IM conversation that got me thinking. (Sorry for stealing your idea for the olde blog, Rebecca.)
I tend to agree with the statement -- the thesis for today, if you will.
Young adult literature tends to be very story-driven. This is likely a result of marketing as much as anything else, since most publishers are aware that a largely teenaged audience will not put up with elegiac reflections on the whorls in a character's thumbprints.
Young adult literature is also (right now) a lot more daring creatively than adult literature because young adult literature is selling, and publishers are more likely to take a chance on something high concept if there is the potential for big payoff.
Young adult literature also has to pay scrupulous attention to character detail, since most young adults invest emotionally in their characters, and will not put up with a book where the characters suddenly begin acting in ways contrary to their established personalities without a good reason.
Finally, young adult literature is inevitably dynamic, in that the main character is maturing throughout the novel or series. I'm sure there are examples to the contrary, but for the most part, young adult characters go through character development as a necessary element of the genre itself.
Contrast this to contemporary adult fiction, where often characters are interestingly flawed from beginning to end. (Chabon, Waldman, Niffenegger, Franzen, anyone?) That does not make them more or less interesting than young adult characters, but it does mean that they can be more static characters. (Again - not as a rule, and for that matter, not especially a good or bad thing, depending on how it is done.)
(Can you tell from all the italics that I am aware this final paragraph is a controversial point that will be easily misinterpreted as me saying "Michael Chabon sucks"? Excellent! As long as we're all on the same page: Michael Chabon does not suck.)
On the flip side.
Young adult literature can dumb down important themes. It can also present bad behavior in a box, removed from realistic and natural consequences. (I'm thinking less here about characters that -- gasp! -- drink and have sex, and more about characters who stalk their love interests. Stalking, in the real world, is generally a bad thing.)
And then to examine adult fiction.
I think we've all read a book that our brains knew was good (maybe even great), but found a paragraph (or two, or three, or four) that took us out of the story. Maybe this was a good thing (Oooh, I'm re-examing priorities!) But I have generally found it to be a bad thing.*
I am not saying literature shouldn't say BIG THINGS about life, but those big things should be an organic part of the story. The story should not be a platform for the big things. In general, adult literature blurs this line more than young adult does. (With the notable exception of our good friend Jack Weyland.)
So now we're back to the original thesis.
Can I get some yays or nays, fellow debaters?
***As a final thought: I am not saying young adult literature is better or worse than adult literature. I am saying that the experience of reading it is often more enjoyable -- and no, not because it's simple or simple-minded.
(Here's where I wish I drank wine so the following analogy wasn't just pure bullshit.)
Young adult literature is like Saurtenes or Reisling. It's light bodied, but when done right, its simplicity is what makes it delicious and flavorful. Adult literature is more like a cabernet sauvignon -- full bodied, complex, but when done wrong, with a slight tendency to stain your teeth, smell like cat pee, and taste like the back of an L.A. schoolbus.
(Did that sound like bullshit? I mean, I've seen Sideways like twice, which I think is pretty legit.)
* Here's a potentially unhelpful example. Have you ever seen V for Vendetta? In V for Vendetta, Natalie Portman is acting. In Black Swan, she's ACTING. Maybe ACTING is your cup of tea, but I think ACTING gets old after a little while.
So when I read The Time Traveler's Wife (for example), I get annoyed on page 120 when Claire sits down to drink some Earl Gray with lemon and read Moliere in the original French after making some more damn paper out of lavender and organic flax seed and angel snot and just think, "BACK TO THE TIME TRAVEL, DAMN YOU! You already tried my patience with that eye-rolling, rape-culture-promoting sexual assault scene!"