A few days ago this Slate article was being bounced around on Twitter: Against YA by Ruth Graham.
The intro and subtitle have to be one of the most inane statements I have read in quite a while.
“Read whatever you want. But you should feel embarrassed when what you’re reading was written for children.”
Feel embarrassed if I should happen to read something that was written for children?
Have you become the reading-age police and deem to know what I or others should or shouldn’t be reading?
So, going by that logic I the adult shouldn’t re-read a childhood classic like Treasure Island, Red Riding Hood, The Magic Faraway Tree then, because that would be embarrassing.
Adults learning to read, or adults learning to read a foreign language often start with books written for children.
As a parent I often pre-read certain books to see if they are suitable reading material for my child and because I have children of various ages that can be anything from young reader to YA ect.
Aside from all of those situations is it wrong to want to enjoy the words of a talented writer or read a beautiful story just because it was written for someone younger than myself?
The answer is of course…
No it damn well isn’t and there is no need to associate the reading of a Harry Potter book, the Hunger Games trilogy or The Iron Fey for instance with any emotion connected with or resulting from any type of shame or embarrassment.
What utter and complete bollocks.
Without getting into the semantics of what age Wiki says and the real age range publishers target within MG,YA and NA, let’s just say they differ. Wikipedia says YA is 13 to 18. Publishers have that age range set securely in the Middle Grade age range of books. For publishers the YA demographic is 16 to 22.
Recently they added NA (New Adult), which is basically YA with sex for the age range of 18-25. NA is not a genre it is an age range, a demographic. YA is not a genre it is an age range, a demographic. From a publishing point of view it makes more sense to target the paying and earning demographic, so they have no problem moving the age boundaries within those groups.
None of these books have a sign that says:
Please Do Not Read if you are not in the intended age range. Warning if you are over the age range this book will automatically self implode if accessed and you will feel an automated response of embarrassment because someone on the internet said so.
Hasn’t happened to you? Me either, go figure.
“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. These endings are emblematic of the fact that the emotional and moral ambiguity of adult fiction—of the real world—is nowhere in evidence in YA fiction.”
Sorry? Have you read any romance novels? Do they not set out to be uniformly satisfying, and that isn’t even counting the erotic genre, do they not appeal to the inner fantasy and the happy ending the romance reader really likes to experience?
There is no difference aside from the teen setting, dialogue and age range of characters.
Herzschmerz is literary gold whether it be for the YA age range or adult reader.
“if they are substituting maudlin teen dramas for the complexity of great adult literature, then they are missing something.”
If you start to raise barricades around the choice of reading material based on a readers age then yes they will be missing something. Great literature doesn’t just come in the form of material written for adults. Not all YA is a fluffy Fae princess, a weapon toting Katniss or a sparkly vampire and even if it were, it doesn’t mean a reader, sorry a really old reader, cannot enjoy the creativity of those stories.
Even from a so-called maudlin teen drama there are things to be learnt, how else would one know about the en-vogue portrayal of abusive bad boys and the female leads who bend over and take it.
Readers young and older than young are being word-lashed into believing it is cute and acceptable to treat another person that way. That is a current problem created by writers of YA books, which is having a negative effect on how girls/women/young people view themselves in our day and age, and the way they should be treated or treat someone else.
Whether or not a 30, 40 or 50 something reader is buying and reading the books YA isn’t really a problem at all in comparison. It certainly isn’t for the heavily laden pocket of publishers and authors of said books.
Nothing is quite so mesmerizing as the difference between reading experiences when a book is read more than once at various stages throughout your life.
The interpretation of the text during the read is made through a readers own frame of reference. That frame of reference changes depending on our life experiences and during our lives, so the content and reading of What Katy Did , 20 000 Leagues Under The Sea or even what Tolkien meant to me then as a child is not the same as it means to me now.
When I pick a book to read I read the blurb…then the sample.
I pick based on whether the idea, story interests me. The age range isn’t something I look at and it isn’t as if most of or any of the books nowadays have huge stamps on the front stating the age the reader should be. If I disregarded books because of my age, ergo ‘I am too ancient or mature for’ then I am certain I would be doing myself and my inner bookworm a great disservice.
My inner bookworm thinks nothing of starting the week off with George RR Martin, laughing during a spin with Kevin Berry, slotting in a little Agatha Christie, falling asleep to L.K. Hamilton, trying to beat the insomnia with Katie McGarry or Sarah Morgan, beating my brain cells with Mike French or Sam Harris and finally relaxing with a Robert J. Crane book.
One should never presume to know the reading habits of a reader just because they decided to read a book written for younger readers.
You should also try not to deflect your own feelings of insecurity and embarrassment onto another person and shovel a whole section of society right into your specially made glass box of judgmental superiority, just because you don’t like a certain type of book.
You go read your mature adult books and I and many others will carry on reading whatever the hell we like.
Cos that’s what bookworms do.
We read…and then we read some more.
I would rather fill my shelves with an abundance of creativity for all age ranges than close myself off to a reading experience just because…
Someone on the internet said so.
Cheryl a.k.a. The not so very embarrassed Bookworm