Why Not YA?

"Read whatever you want. But you should feel embarrassed when what you’re reading was written for children." -Ruth Graham, quoted from Against YA

Well, I don't. I don't feel embarrassed about writing YA either. How presumptuous of this woman to tell an entire demographic of readers how they should feel...or what they should be reading!  Every reader reads for different reasons. Some just want a light, fun read while others want a good scare. Not everyone wants a heavy literary read where they learn lessons about life and grow just a little. I would never tell somebody what they should be reading (promoting my books doesn't count! lol) or shame them for what they are reading.

---"I know, I know: Live and let read. Far be it from me to disrupt the “everyone should just read/watch/listen to whatever they like” ethos of our era. There’s room for pleasure, escapism, juicy plots, and satisfying endings on the shelves of the serious reader. And if people are reading Eleanor & Park instead of watching Nashville or reading detective novels, so be it, I suppose. But if they are substituting maudlin teen dramas for the complexity of great adult literature, then they are missing something."
But she is trying to disrupt the ethos...she's telling people to do the opposite of reading/watching/listening to what they like. All because she thinks we might be "missing something"....we're not. If we don't read every book ever made we are "missing something"...but we get to choose...then at least we're not missing what we want. 

---"Books like The Westing Game and Tuck Everlasting provided some of the most intense reading experiences of my life. I have no urge to go back and re-read them, but those books helped turn me into the reader I am today. It’s just that today, I am a different reader."
That's great...for you. Thing is, we are all different readers...different from you and what you enjoy. That's the beauty of diversity...and the reason your article is so ludicrous.

---"I’m a reader who did not weep, contra every article ever written about the book, when I read The Fault in Our Stars. I thought, Hmm, that’s a nicely written book for 13-year-olds. If I’m being honest, it also left me saying “Oh, brother” out loud more than once. Does this make me heartless? Or does it make me a grown-up?"
Um, neither...it makes you YOU. Others did weep. I didn't read it precisely because I knew I would weep. Your experience while reading any book is just that...YOUR experience. Let others have experiences of their own without writing an article shaming them for it.

---"But crucially, YA books present the teenage perspective in a fundamentally uncritical way. It’s not simply that YA readers are asked to immerse themselves in a character’s emotional life—that’s the trick of so much great fiction—but that they are asked to abandon the mature insights into that perspective that they (supposedly) have acquired as adults"
YA books are written by adults, with few exceptions. Adults with that mature insight you speak of. Writers do write their teenage characters from a teenage perspective, but that doesn't mean it's an immature perspective...or that anyone reading has to abandon their maturity.
Adding that (supposedly) feels an awful lot like a snarky dig...calling YA readers immature.

---"Most importantly, these books consistently indulge in the kind of endings that teenagers want to see, but which adult readers ought to reject as far too simple. YA endings are uniformly satisfying, whether that satisfaction comes through weeping or cheering."
There you go again, telling readers what they "ought to" do. I like happy endings. I hate sad endings. But I'm not going to write an article saying there should only be happy endings.
How many YA books have you read? How can you possibly know what you're talking about? There are plenty of tragic endings in YA...yet this is your "most important" point? 

---"Fellow grown-ups, at the risk of sounding snobbish and joyless and old, we are better than this"
I would've hoped you'd be better than writing this article...instead you are spot on about sounding snobbish and joyless. Old is subjective.

---"I remember, when I was a young adult, being desperate to earn my way into the adult stacks; I wouldn’t have wanted to live in a world where all the adults were camped out in mine. There’s a special reward in that feeling of stretching yourself beyond the YA mark, akin to the excitement of graduating out of the kiddie pool and the rest of the padded trappings of childhood: It’s the thrill of growing up. But the YA and “new adult” boom may mean fewer teens aspire to grown-up reading, because the grown-ups they know are reading their books"
Why in the world would you have to earn your way into the adult stacks? I read all kinds of adult books when I was a teen...Flowers in the Attic (whole series)...The Hobbit...Danielle Steele, just to name a few. The world of book genres is not a camping ground or a kiddie pool...there is no graduation...you read what you want to read, what you enjoy reading. And that's all.
I have never heard any young reader upset because adults are reading "their" books. That's just silly. Reading is for everyone...adults included.

---"When I think about what I learned about love, relationships, sex, trauma, happiness, and all the rest—you know, life—from the extracurricular reading I did in high school, I think of John Updike and Alice Munro and other authors whose work has only become richer to me as I have grown older, and which never makes me roll my eyes."
And yet, some adult readers would roll their eyes at John Updike and Alice Munro (not me!). It's all subjective...every reader has their own taste...likes and dislikes. For you to take your dislike and try to tell us we should feel embarrassed for liking it is just....well....it's shameful.

Maybe you, dear Ms. Graham, should be the one who is embarrassed for writing such a pretentious, accusatory, and unfounded article.

For another, more expletive-laden response that is pure awesomeness, check this out:
Adults Can Read Whatever the Hell They Want
Thank you, Sara, for saying everything I was thinking!



Shelley Wilson said...

Great post! I totally agree with you, I just turned 42 and my favourite gift was Cassandra Clare's latest release, City of Heavenly Fire - YA! I read it, I write it and will continue to do so until I'm 100+

De said...

I totally could have written this! Excellent response.

In addition, my teenager and I *love* to read the same book or series - either reading aloud or separately and then comparing. We like to talk with other adults & teens who have read the same thing (kind of like a book club, but not formal). We've read "teen", "adult" and "children"s books over the years and I'm *proud* to be an adult that doesn't segregate my reading because of ageist discrimination.

Ron Estrada said...

She can't be serious. When I was a teenager, I don't event think we called it YA. They were just great stories that happened to have teens as protagonists. I write YA now because I love writing characters that are so unpredictable, so dramatic, and so without the self-imposed behavior restrictions adults place on ourselves. And yes, this 47 year-old man will be sitting in a movie theatre this weekend, watching A Fault in Our Stars, and probably crying into his popcorn.

Edward L Cote said...

I write YA though I don't read much of it anymore. I still need to read Harry Potter. I'm just really far behind on my reading.

I do think you're right and she's way off. To what others have said I will add this: There is a difference between YA and children's literature. I think her argument might have been closer to the mark if everyone were reading Winnie the Pooh, but even then there are much worse things people can do, like watching wrestling or "reality" TV just for example.

Lastly: She wasn't just griping about YA, she also attacked genre fiction, which I also write and read. I've been sick to death of that snobbery for years. Lots of readers like the detective novels she mentioned, or fantasy or sci-fi. In fact the biggest gap between supply and demand right now is in science fiction. The Big 5 publishers don't want to meet that demand and they're all but ceding an entire genre to self-published authors like Hugh Howey. (though he recently got a deal IIRC)

Shannon Taylor Hodnett said...

Thank you all for your wonderful comments! ツ xoxox ♥ I agree completely...I have a hard time believing she was serious with this entire article (someone mentioned clickbait)...and I did notice her lumping in teen reads with children's books-how can anyone who purports to know what they're talking about in literature do that???
I'm also proud to read/write YA and will do it the rest of my life...and I may just relent and go see Fault in Our Stars this weekend...with no eye make-up and lots of tissues. ^_^

Lorry said...

Reading A Fault in Our Stars would have been a better use of her time than writing than stupid opinion piece. Good response!

L Anthony said...

I found your great blog through the WLC Blog Follows on the World Literary Cafe! Great to connect

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