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Against YA? Fine. But Let’s Not Bully Readers.

I don’t even wanna get into this, because it feels like a waste of time. However, this article recently made the rounds, and I thought I should comment publicly on it. I had heard about the general message behind this article—that adults should be embarrassed about reading stories meant for teens—and my initial reaction was to raise an eyebrow, roll my eyes, then dismiss it with a shrug. I mean, what do I care about some writer’s opinion about my choice to read YA and the fact that I enjoy it?

I guess what bugs me is that it feels a little like reader bullying.

The whole article is based on shaming and insulting a group of readers, as though this writer could possibly presume to know why us adults read YA, and how we each process those stories. She also assumes that the way she filters YA stories is the way all adults should filter them.

I do not like fantasy. I keep trying to read all types of fantasy novels (YA, adult, different POVs, different time periods—whatever), and I never like them. A case could be made for the fact that fantasy novels are ridiculous. I mean, magic, creatures, weird worlds? Why would an adult read something like that? It’s not very sophisticated. Or is it? Am I the right person to judge fantasy since I don’t like it?

So that’s where I tried to compare the “Against YA” thing using my dislike of fantasy. But really, I didn’t have to do that. Shaming readers for reading by insulting their maturity and intellect is just a very sad thing, and that doesn’t even need to be argued.

I don’t only read YA. My reading is probably pretty even between the YA and adult markets. However, I have a special connection to the types of YA novels I gravitate to (because I don’t love all YA novels–it’s a market, not a genre). I love YA for many reasons that I’m not ashamed of.

I love reading YA because:

  • It can be extremely well-written, and I especially love a realistic first-person teen voice.
  • I remember exactly what it was like when I was a teen, and those feeling and experiences are still very much with me and have everything to do with the adult I am today.
  • Like everyone, I had some shitty teen experiences that I’m still trying to learn from so that I may be an even happier adult than I already am.
  • I love getting lost in experiencing all those “firsts” that characterize the teen years.
  • I enjoy stories that focus on identity formation, and developmentally, that sort of happens during the teen years.
  • I miss the self-centered teen life–not that I’m generalizing all teen experiences here, or demeaning it by using “self-centered” because I don’t mean it negatively. It’s the idea that life was about making friends, making love, making trouble…plus breaking free from the bullshit. Life was “all about me” and that was okay.
  • I like reading about the dynamics of a family and its relationship from the point of view of a teen. It brings me back to my own days of sharing a house with my parents, my sisters, and our puppy.

I just like stories about people, and a lot of those stories happen to feature people who are 15 to 18 years old (I’m not much into younger YA and Middle Grade fiction), and they’re written in a way that’s meant to be accessible to people of the same age; I consider myself lucky for the fact that they’re still accessible to me as a reader.

I don’t need stories with mortgages, divorces, child-rearing, and dark endings to feel like I’m a sophisticated reader reading sophisticated stories. I roll my eyes at plenty of adult books. I’m not really concerned with which books belong to the “complex, great adult literature” category; it doesn’t mean I should be reading that because I’m 32. Also, plenty of great adult literature sucks butt (according to me). I can’t stand “maudlin teen dramas” either, but what’s a maudlin teen drama to me, isn’t a maudlin teen drama to other readers.

I’ve looked down on people for their choice of literature in the past (I’m sorry, 50 Shades people, and fantasy lovers), but I’d like to think I’ve grown since then, and I like to celebrate the fact that people are reading, period. I’ve also accepted the fact that my opinion isn’t going to be shared by everyone, and that not everyone reads for the same things, nor does a book get processed in the same way by each of its readers. I mean, some of my most beloved books—books that changed my life—I can’t even read past one or two chapters today because I find them too awful to continue. Has my taste in literature evolved? Am I a better reader now? Consider this: Some of these books I no longer like are considered “great adult literature,” so have a really moved on to better literature, or am I just reading differently and looking for different things now? Who gets to decide that?

Have I made my point that reading is subjective, and that bullying readers for what they enjoy is not cool? I hope so.

What do you guys think about this subject? Why do you read YA?

 

(Also, sorry I’m so inconsistent at blogging.)

One thought on “Against YA? Fine. But Let’s Not Bully Readers.

  1. We all take different things away from the things we read and to generalize it all by saying we should be ashamed to be reading YA diminishes the richness of the human experience. After all, YA is about crossroads and turning points and we wouldn’t get to be the adults we are today without going through that rite of passage. How can that be a trivial as literature?

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