Friday, June 06, 2014

On Reading YA

The internet is in another tizzy.

Yesterday, an article was published about YA books and how adults should feel embarrassed for reading books "written for children"*.As a big reader (and wannabe writer) of YA books, I should feel outraged, right? I'm not, though. Don't get me wrong, I think the article writer's thoughts are ridiculous, but she  doesn't control what I read and her thoughts won't affect my book decisions at all. I hear stuff like this a lot though, as I work with books and read a lot in my spare time.

I've heard the critique a lot that adults shouldn't read YA books and that these readers need to grow up and read 'real' fiction. I love that this statement seems to make a blanket acceptance of adult fiction all being more literary somehow. There are several problems with this way of thinking, of course.

First, genre distinctions are generally made by the publishers. "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Chbosky is a book about teenagers that is in the regular fiction section of your local Barnes & Noble. Is the approval rating for that book higher because of where it sits on the shelves? Have you ever read "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie? It's in the teen section, yet it is a poignant, must-read that stayed with me as much as any classic has. "Catcher in the Rye" by Salinger is about a teenager, yet is in the adult section and considered a classic. If you threw a bunch of books into a pile, instead of shelving them into different genres, what criteria would you use to judge them?

Second, every genre has gems and duds. Is every YA book good? No. Is every adult book good? No. "You're an adult. Read a book written for adults." Oh, like "Fifty Shades of Gray"? Or maybe a nice Harlequin romance? Maybe some cat mysteries or the new Dan Brown? Oh yes! These are certain to change my life.

Last, what exactly makes a book good? What makes it more literary than something else? Is it big words? Big ideas? The inclusion on a university syllabus? And most importantly, does every book in our To Be Read piles have to be a potential classic? Because, that's not going to fly with this reader. I want to read what grabs my attention and if it happens to be a book about a teenager saving the world, then so be it.

Now, I have to get back to my book...


Now, full disclosure so I'm not a total hypocrite. I hate manga and totally judge people who read it. Well, at least, I totally judge people who only read manga. Yuck!

* I'm not linking to it because I dislike when people hate things yet draw a ton of attention to it.

1 comment:

Serena McClain said...

Well said! If you think about it, your young adult/teenage years are some of your most formative (according to psychologists and Criminal Minds), so wouldn't it follow that teen books are actually full of big ideas? Spoiler alert: I'm pretty sure a lot are! I'm also certain there are teen books on university syllabi.

Take that haters!

[Maturity courtesy of years of reading across tons of different genres ;-)]

P.S. I didn't actually read the original article and don't actually plan to.