I thought I was being super-smart buying Chestnut Code Name Verity, even though I hadn't read it myself. I'd heard about it, which I thought was all I needed. Historical? Check. Codes? Check. Everyone talking about how awesome it is? Double check.

Here was her beef: the hero is a grown-up. Cue look of horror.

While it's true that her aversion might be more accurately attributed to the fact that I was the one giving the book her (sucks to be a mom sometimes), it did make me wonder.

I mean, we hear all the time about boys not wanting to read books in which a girl is the main character, the age thing is…different. I remember being 14 or so, and reading Seventeen magazine and feeling really quite sophisticated. And Chestnut herself, let us remember, was perfectly happy to read about Ruth Reichl, who is most assuredly a grown-up. So what gives?

I don't know. I think, partly, that when you're 11 part of you wants to be 15, and the other part wants to be 10. And as for Code Name Verity, I can't say yet because I am on page five. But I can tell so far that she is, indeed, a grown-up. And it is strange to me. Why is this a book for kids? Is it even a book for kids? And who cares if it is? (Other than Chestnut, I mean, who wanted to show my why what I did when I tried to buy her a present was WRONG.) I like to fancy myself a person who is working against cutting literature into discrete and unrelated chunks, rather than letting it blend and ooze.

Yes, that seems great, doesn't it? Letting literature ooze?

Anyway: what do your kids think about books with grown-ups in them? I mean, Robinson Crusoe? Treasure Island? What do you think?

7 thoughts on “Grown-ups

  1. My fourteen year old son says his favorite book is the brutal one about the World War II pilot that was captured and tortured, etc. However, he is also known to sit on his bed with a pile of old “Henry and Mudge” paperbacks, too. I am just so grateful that one of my three children is a reader —


  2. The author has a thoughtful quote somewhere on her blog about why she thinks it’s YA. I can’t find it any more, but I found me quoting it in the comments section of the mock-Printz blog:
    “The simplest answer is: I’m a YA author, and my YA agent sold this book to 3 different YA publishers, and nobody ever questioned that it was YA.
    …I think that in the case of CNV, it has to do with the fact that both heroines are unfinished as adults – at least to my mind. Neither of them knows what they want to be when they grow up, they’re untrained (apart from their war work), and they’re sexually inexperienced (I think that’s pretty clear). They’re in the process of forming the emotional and vocational bonds that they’ll use as adults. Okay, by the end of the book they’re no longer teens, but they certainly aren’t fully fledged grownups. But they’re on their way. (or.. you know what I mean.)
    So, yeah… that would be my distinction… YA implies some character growth and maturity takes place during the book which wouldn’t necessarily be there in an adult book.”
    Here’s the whole Printz-blog post (possibly with some spoilerish discussion; I no longer remember):
    My own perspective: I think of the book –which I desperately loved and count as one of my favorite reads of last year and possibly of ever–as crossover YA/adult; there’s some very rough emotional stuff in it, and when you read further you may (or may not) be just as glad that Chestnut put it aside for now.


  3. …actually on looking again at that Printz blog post and comments, there’s a fair bit in it that gives away some things in the book that might mess up the experience for you if you haven’t read it yet. Or in other words, spoilers. And this book is particularly enhanced, I think, by not being spoiled. So, you know, you might want to wait on clicking the link.


  4. I was a little surprised the book is considered YA, but the characters are just beginning their adult lives, so they are young adults. It is NOT, though, a book for kids. I think it’s a good thing Chestnut was turned off at the start before it involved torture and war and death.
    You, however, are in for a treat!


  5. I LOVED LOVED LOVED IT, but honestly felt it should not have been published as YA. I would recommend it for older teenagers…and every adult on the planet.


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