Tag Archive: YA literature


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.

There are a number of response pieces to the above article, here about Millennials and here about feminism. Looking at these, I feel as if this is a song and dance that has happened so many times.

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.

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I have a very good friend who writes about YA literature (as well as other genres) as a regular blogger. As such, I sometimes get lazy and simply think “What she said! That’s what I think.” Sometimes, it’s good to be a cheerleader for those who speak up and say what they feel about a subject–adding a “I completely agree with this” blog seems silly sometimes when people like this are so eloquent about it.

But when I read her blog about some NYTimes book review jerk who downplays an entire genre (YA lit) simply because it is “marketed to children and teens,” I go a little cross-eyed and rethink my stance on not commenting about some of these subjects. Others have already weighed in on his being a rather biased prick about certain books, so I won’t go into all the reasons he’s wrong, but I will say this: whatever you may think of a particular genre, be it YA lit, romance, mystery, memoirs, or whatever it may be, it’s never cool to insult the genre and its readers. Just because it isn’t your cup of tea doesn’t mean you need to insult those who love it.

Now, on to more constructive commentary on this subject. It has always fascinated me that people dismiss entire genres based on (if they’re good readers) a couple of books they’ve read that disappointed them in this genre or (not very good readers) what they’ve heard about that genre. I cringe to admit that I was one of those “I hate romance because the idea of focusing a whole story on love is stupid” readers; same thing happened with mystery.

When I realized that I really had no clue what I was talking about, I started reading books in different genres, just to get a feel for it. Do I like romance novels? Not so much, but now I can safely point to a number of books that I’ve read in the genre, say which ones I liked and didn’t like, and why. I’ve found, on the other hand, that I love mystery novels and I never would have unless I tried a wide range of them.

My point is: you can’t bitch about a genre or a series or a book or an author unless you’ve actually read their stuff. Also take into account that one book may not be indicative of an entire group. So don’t knock it till you’ve tried it, and don’t ruin it for the rest of us who love it.

I’m not saying reviewers or bloggers or critics shouldn’t give an honest evaluation of a work. But seriously? YA lit is for babies who don’t want to grow up? Way to alienate an entire reader base, dude.

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