My Twitter feed is always full of interesting things now that I follow authors and agents and other literary creatures. So when I started seeing a bunch of posts about “that Slate article“, I was intrigued. I tapped my way over to Slate.com and found instantly what all the talk was about.
It was about adults, legitimate tax-paying, Volvo driving grown ups who read YA – aka Young Adult fiction. It starts with a blurb right up top exclaiming in its bold font –
Read whatever you want. But you should feel embarrassed when what you’re reading was written for children.
I’m sorry. I like to read. Which is the understatement of the century – I love to read. I love to read books. I love to read different types of books. Nothing is more alluring than a book store with a new shipment of newly printed books. I managed to find the very first book I loved – Molly’s Moe – on Ebay, and bought two copies. I want to get the BabyLit version of Jane Eyre because it’s a way to share one of my favorite stories with my special needs daughter.
I like books. All kinds of books. I refuse to be limited by genre.
But the writer of the article scoffs at the idea of reading YA, that we are “better than this”, and tells us how “mature readers also find satisfaction of a more intricate kind in stories that confound and discomfit, and in reading about people with whom they can’t empathize at all.”
Well, I never claimed to be mature. And I never claimed I always choose my books for their intricacy. Sometimes, I want to ready something mind-thrilling. Sometimes I use reading as an escape from my already too-impossible-to-believe life, and I don’t want to have my thoughts challenged or deal with dislikeable characters. Other times, I choose the hot new seller that is all the rage in the “grown up” section. But to infer that all YA fiction is mindless fluff just means you haven’t read much YA. Or maybe haven’t read much, period.
Yes, there is a ton of crap YA books. I read one series (no, not Twilight) and forbade my teen daughter from reading it for fear it would turn her mind to mush. But there are a ton of crap legitimate grown-up books as well. Crap writing doesn’t keep itself to one genre. Every genre has the amazing and the awful, and a whole lot in between.
When I was 13, I read “Gone with the Wind”, to challenge myself. In my late 30’s, I read “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman because it caught my attention, by both author and plot. I am currently waiting for the last book in The Grisha Trilogy to come out. “Cathedral of the Sea” is next on my reading list, as well as “Code Name Verity” and “I Am the Messenger“, the latest novel by the author of “The Book Thief“.
And wasn’t “The Book Thief” brilliant? Oh wait..no…it wasn’t that thought-provoking and stimulating as it was, after all, a children’s book. We should all feel ashamed for having read it. Or so the Slate writer would tell us. We should only be reading thought-provoking books with dislikeable characters that show the world how very old and mature we are.
Then again, maybe she isn’t old enough yet to enjoy fairy tales again. Which is a shame. Maybe in a few years, she’ll be ready for them again, and find new delights in reading.