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.
*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!