There seems to be, yet again, someone bashing anyone who reads YA but especially targeting those considered to be “outside” of the acceptable age range for the genre. Setting aside the fact, for a moment, that I believe any reading should be encouraged and that we, as individual people with individual interests, shouldn’t judge what someone else finds interesting or life altering for them, the fact that this blog is so self-serving and judgmental as to bring words like “shame” and “embarrassment” into the conversation loses sight of the argument.
Does this make me heartless? Or does it make me a grown-up?
An article that would have the above statement anywhere in it has, already, devolved into a subjective, limiting, and uninteresting conversation about “what it means to be a grown-up,” and “let me tell you how I am better than you by making you feel ashamed about something.” Sounds like high school politics to me.
These are the books that could plausibly be said to be replacing literary fiction in the lives of their adult readers. And that’s a shame.
That has kept me bashful about expressing my own fuddy-duddy opinion: Adults should feel embarrassed about reading literature written for children.
The issue of shame is an interesting one, when it comes to reading and writing in general. Who decides what is shameful? Who decides what should create embarrassment, create a negative emotion centered around societal rules and impositions, on an individual who is reading? According to this article, reading should be some sort of societal movement, a groupthink reality in which we “should” read a certain quality of writing, a certain type of book. Good “literature,” noting, of course, that the article seems to believe only the white, Western ideals of literature are worth noting, are the only ones worth spending any amount of time pursuing.
As a writer, I feel somewhat constrained by the idea of needing to write something that is “adult” or “grown up,” because I feel that no one goes and says “I must read a mature book that others will agree is worth reading.” It’s a little too English Lit major for me (I was an English Lit major, fyi). Why? Why does it matter how I decide to tell my story?
The difficulty with fighting back against this opposition is the very fact that these arguments use words like “shame” and “adult.” The vehicle itself is devalued, therefore any arguments come from a place where you must first justify the entire genre before you can speak to its merits. The context of the historical novels that these articles often cite aren’t discussed, such as how the general population accepted these books when they were first produced, and there is this nostalgic “in my day” quality to everything these articles say.
One of the points that the first article makes is that great literature, such as Jane Austen’s novels, are of great value than YA literature today. Here’s a little quote from Wikipedia on that very subject:
Jane Austen‘s purpose never was to write historical or social novels, nor to provide a balanced and objective picture of late 18th century England. Her stories—considered as “comic”, because of their happy endings—all take place in the society she knew, that of a small rural gentry family, rather well-off though without fortune, around the 19th century.
Interesting, isn’t it? These novels don’t always set out to “define an age.” Not to mention, the “unsatisfying ends being adult” that the first article alludes to goes in direct opposition of Jane Austen’s novels which, for the time, all ended with spectacularly happy endings. Love, wealth, prospects, property…all ends well in Jane Austen novels. This is just one example, but my point is that one can disseminate all of these instances.
YA novels offer a platform to discuss difficult topics of the day. A substantial chunk of the population is reading YA novels, so what better way to create a societal conversation about these works? Not to read them is to blind oneself to the conversation entirely.