Why YA?

So I know for an absolute fact that I’m not the only adult who writes a blog that primarily or exclusively deals with YA books. There are lots of us, in fact. We are legion. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who gets the occasional awkward question or who feels like she’s being silently judged because of it. You know, the question we all dread and/or feel like everyone is thinking but not asking out loud: “Why does a grown ass woman want to spend time reading and reviewing books for kids?” Most of us probably have a fairly similar reaction to this extremely narrow-minded view…

Those of us who actually read YA books know that they are so much more than just “kids books” and when people say otherwise it makes us want to start murdering faces. When people are dismissive of an entire genre of books and insulting to those who read them – even those who are allegedly “professional” writers and who I will not link to because I refuse to drive even a single click to their articles – we may roll our eyes because they obviously just do not get it. That said, to me the question of Why YA? is worth addressing. Here are some of my feelings with regard to the usual vapid questions.

Don’t you read any grown up stuff?
Well, uh, yeah. I do sometimes read grown up stuff. I’ve read Tolstoy and Faulkner and Hemingway. I’ve given Kafka the old college try before throwing my hands up and being like “yeeeah…not my cup of tea.” I’ve read Austen and Bronte. Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite authors.  To Kill a Mockingbird is probably my favorite book of all time.  I read a lot of non-fiction for pleasure. I’d be as likely to camp out at midnight for a David McCullough book as I would for a J.K. Rowling. I am, to put it bluntly, a huge nerdlinger. I have a degree in history,  I’ve read the MF’ing Federalist Papers. AND NOT FOR CLASS. The idea that only the mentally lazy or the emotionally immature read YA is complete horseshit and ignorance of the highest degree. In my opinion the people who make these accusations are just trying to make themselves feel more intelligent by putting others down. It’s not fooling anyone, really.  You still don’t look any smarter and now you look like a condescending asshole as well.

In practical terms, if you are blogging it makes sense to pick one genre and stick with it. Blogs tend to have audiences looking for one particular niche/genre/style, so it’s best to just have a more narrow focus. I wish blogs like these would have existed when I was a kid, I might have branched out from Nancy Drew and Christopher Pike (not that I don’t love them both, just saying…).

Aw, that’s nice that you’re screening all of these books so that you know what your kids are reading!
Nice assumption but: a) I don’t have any kids; and b) I’m not that nice. Nor would I censor what my hypothetical children read as long as it was something basically age appropriate. So wrong on all counts, sucker.

Isn’t it hard to relate or pointless reading books where the characters are teenagers?
How do you even respond to this one? Why would it be? I don’t feel weird when books have characters who are elderly. Or babies. Or animals. Why would teenagers be any different? And it’s not like I’m ready for my golden years or anything, I remember being a teenager. And wait, just exactly how old do you think I am?

So you’re like, what, trying to re-live your childhood?
Holy shit, no. Look, I had a great time as a teenager. I did the usual fun teenage stuff. I even still have some of the same friends I had as a teenager. But frankly, you could not pay me enough to go back and do those years all over again.

Isn’t it a little weird that you’re part of an online community that caters to and is full of teenagers?
I must have missed the memo where teenagers aren’t real human beings worth interacting with. In fact, some of the best YA book blogs out there are run by or contributed to by kids as young as 13. Thirteen! If you think that’s weird as opposed to completely admirable and awesome, that’s your issue. When I was 13 the only thing I was writing was “I love Jon Bon Jovi” and “Karen Bon Jovi” over and over again on my notebook (don’t you dare judge me, he still looks pretty good at 50 if you can ignore the poofy hair).

If you don’t feel that adults can have a meaningful exchange of ideas and interesting  discussion with teenagers, again, that’s your issue. And if you feel like there is automatically something weird or nefarious about interacting with people of different ages – including teenagers – online, you may be somewhat paranoid.

Do you ever feel kinda silly if people see you reading books that are full of vampires, mermaids, angels, etc.?
Well to be honest…yes. But this isn’t solely a YA thing. Look at the Southern Vampires series by Charlaine Harris – it’s full of smutty vampire sex and I don’t think anyone is going to be calling it a young adult series any time soon. Or if they are, somebody should try to pry them out of the clutched fists of all of the middle-aged ladies who have them hiding in their nightstand drawers. Good luck with that. And the tv series it spawned, True Blood? Uh, yeah, NOT YA. You know those previously mentioned hypothetical kids of mine who wouldn’t be censored? They wouldn’t be watching True Blood. And all of these paranormaly things are recurring themes in both adult fiction and erotica, which is again not intended for young adults (and also not my cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to shit all over it as a genre to make myself feel better about my own reading habits – YA haters, take a lesson).

But seriously, why YA?
Because it tackles a lot of the same issues that adult books do – YES IT DOES – and many times it does so in a less complicated and more honest manner than an adult book might. In my opinion, anyway. It’s not all vampires and proms – there’s also physical abuse, suicide, abandonment, drug & alcohol abuse, rape (date and otherwise), sexism, bullying, death, emotional abuse, consequences of actions, cheating, eating disorders, illness, and a myriad of other topics that are relevant to, like, everyone walking the planet.

Because there are a lot of great authors out there who write YA primarily or exclusively, and you’re missing out if you don’t give their stuff a try.

And why blog YA? Because it’s a great community to be a part of and because, again, I think it would have been awesome to have blogs around when I was growing up. Let’s be honest, for better or for worse most adults are already stuck in their reading patterns. They’re either readers or they’re not. If a child or a teen sees a book on a blog and it sparks an interest and turns him or her into a reader for life, then that’s pretty awesome as far as I’m concerned.

But mostly I just read YA because I like it.

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*FTR, I’m sure this topic has been covered before and done better. I’m not claiming this to be the definitive guide on defending YA, just my own feelings on the topic. If anyone else has done a similar post and would like me to link it up and share, please let me know!

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24 Comments

  1. I love this post! Brilliant!

    I’m still a ”Young Adult” (19) and already I get weird looks about the type of books I read. It’s weird how some people think reading YA books means you can’t read or appreciate adult novels, too. Nearly all of my absolute favourite books are adult books yet 90% of what I read is YA. With YA, most books I pick up I enjoy well enough. With adult books, I find I have to go through many, many books to get to ones that blow my mind. That’s just me… other people are different. And that’s cool too. 🙂

    It’s crazy how fast the YA section has grown. When I started secondary school at 13, we had YA books, sure but the section in the store was tiny and not a lot of it was good. By the time I LEFT secondary school at 18, the YA section was huge and seems bigger every time I go into the store. I wish all those books had been so readily available when I was a younger teen.

    Life is SO damn short. We need to be reading what we enjoy not what other people deem ”worthy” enough!

    Reply
    • Thanks Nicola! Your last sentence is so true. I really don’t care what people think I “should” be reading. I like a lot of classics but you know, I also can’t stand a lot of them. Different strokes and all that. I have so many books that I *want* to read that I’m never going to get to them all. No way I’m going to spend my time reading things just because somebody has deemed them more worthy!

      Reply
  2. I fully agree with what you are saying! When people ask me what I am reading and what type of book it is, and I say it is YA. They just stare at me and ask, but why? Hell maybe you should give it a shot and see why! :nod:

    Reply
    • I think more people should read YA. There is a lot of fluff but there are also books that deal with serious issues. And really, so what if some of it is fluff? Like adult books aren’t? Look at chick lit. Or like I mentioned, the Sookie Stackhouse books (which I like, btw). It’s not like those have some kind of existential meaning.

      Reply
  3. YES! Awesome essay, Karen! Like you I am an adult who would never want to return to her teenage years, but unabashedly LOVES reading YA. Like you I also read other genres, but honestly, I am just enjoying YA and New Adult more than any others right now. That might someday change, but until then I’m going to read what I want to read, review what I want to review, and be unapologetic about it. And thank you for the laugh this morning, the Bitch Pipe Down funny made my morning:)

    Sharing this one on the Twitter, chica:)

    Reply
    • Thanks! I am the same way, I read what I want to read when I want to read it. I intersperse my YA with non-fiction (primarily history) depending on what I feel like reading at the time. I find it very freeing to not give a damn what people think someone “my age” should be reading.

      Reply
  4. excellent post! and BTW i still ❤ Bon Jovi

    Reply
  5. This is the best post I’ve read in a while. I agree completely with everything you wrote. Nicely done m’dear! Love it.

    Reply
  6. Love your post!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  7. LOL at Bitch Pipe Down. lol but this —–>

    “Aw, that’s nice that you’re screening all of these books so that you know what your kids are reading!

    Nice assumption but: a) I don’t have any kids; and b) I’m not that nice. Nor would I censor what my hypothetical children read as long as it was something basically age appropriate. So wrong on all counts, sucker.”

    Thats my fav part. lol. You make me laugh. ❤

    Great post though. I completely agree with you on many front. I unlike you dont have a hypothetical child, I have a real one, but I'm reading YA because I like it.. not to screen it for her. It's all about me enjoying it.

    Reply
    • My parents never really screened what we were reading or watching (which explains quite a bit, actually). I think the only time my mom took something away from me was a Jackie Collins novel when I was too young to know about things that went on in Jackie Collins novels. She didn’t keep them on the bookshelf after that, ha.

      Reply
  8. No, you’re not the first to write on this topic. But, this is probably the best I’ve read.
    I lol’d at the “I’m not that nice.” line.
    Great post. I love you even more now.

    Reply
  9. AMEN, GIRL!!! **Claps loudly** This post is SO going in my end of the week blogosphere wrap-up. You just made my day, Karen!

    Reply
  10. Wow! That is a truly amazing post! Couldn’t have said it better – or funnier, really! I’m still a teen (16) but I always get made fun of by my oh-so-sophisticated friends for reading YA so it’s good to have some arguments to throw in their faces the next time they mock me 🙂

    Reply
    • Good for you for reading what you want to read. Reading a certain type of book doesn’t make you more or less sophisticated, especially if you’re only reading them to project an image to other people. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of variety and the classics and such, but life is too short not to read what you want to read.

      Reply
  11. What a great post! I never really gave it a lot of thought until my grandpa came to visit and wanted to know what I read. Then I was a little embarrassed but I told him that I can match up at LEAST one YA book with ANYONE that will convince them to read more of the genre. I handed him The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. What do you know – he loved it! I’ve gotten my mother and brothers and sisters all hooked on YA. And they were all a little unsure. Until they started reading. Now I’m shipping them books monthly, they cant get enough!

    Reply
    • OMG, I love ATDoaPTI. I love it so, so much. Hooray for getting your family hooked on YA! I’ve been trying to get my boyfriend to read the Hunger Games for the longest time but now that he’s seen the movie he especially can’t be bothered. His loss, I guess!

      Reply
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