I read YA with no shame

5 Jun

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.

 

Um…no.

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.

The dedication in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

The dedication in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

 

 

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15 Responses to “I read YA with no shame”

  1. Mara June 5, 2014 at 6:24 pm #

    Wait, the book thief is YA?!? Lol, I liked it! I will read anything, doesn’t matter if I part of the intended audience or not. A good book is a good book, period:)

    • phoebz4 June 5, 2014 at 7:00 pm #

      Yep – it’s listed as “Children’s Book” on Amazon, and if you look for it in a bookstore (or the book section of Target) it’s on the Youth side of things

  2. Mara June 5, 2014 at 6:26 pm #

    I would like the edit my previous comment, and change it to “The Book Thief”😳

  3. nanciw June 5, 2014 at 6:50 pm #

    I too read YA, and enjoy it. I’m often reading them at the suggestion of my two older DDs, and especially when my 17yo tells me something is good. I’ll read it, and usually she’s right, but right or wrong, it gives us something to talk about that she really enjoys, when getting her to talk to me otherwise just gets me an eye roll or grunt LOL. So to me YA books aren’t brainless, they’re priceless.

    • phoebz4 June 5, 2014 at 7:01 pm #

      exactly! How many of us are reading YA as a way to bond with our kids? My daughter loves it when I throw books her way (she and I are now waiting for the fourth book in the “Cinder” series.)

  4. Amanda June 5, 2014 at 8:15 pm #

    I’ve two sisters who between them have been teaching grade school for more than 50 years. When I worked at Barnes & Noble, I used to tell people who were buying children’s books what my sisters often told me. “Read it yourself. If it bores you, it will bore your child. A good story is a good story no matter what level it is written on.” I also firmly believe that some of the best fiction writing in America right now is in Children’s and Young Adult. The divisions, especially between “Young Adult” and “Adult,” are completely arbitrary on the part of the publishers anyway. (Cases in point: Neil Gaimen and Terry Pratchett.) Life is too short to let them stand between you and a good read. I’ll get off my soap box now, but not before I say “Read on!”

  5. franhunne4u June 5, 2014 at 10:46 pm #

    Could not agree more with you and the commenters here. WHO WANTS TO READ ABOUT SOMEBODY NOT LIKEABLE? I don’t!
    I do not want to “identify” with a disturbing character.
    “find satisfaction of a more intricate kind in stories that confound and discomfit”
    HELLO? (My) life is confounding and discomfitting – I read to get something NEW, something where problems do get SOLVED .. unlike here.
    I am satisfied when I solve my REAL problems – not when some fictual a**h*** I cannot stand fails at his life. That is just a waste of time.

    • phoebz4 June 6, 2014 at 11:57 am #

      I’ll admit, I read “Gone Girl” – which was very well done – but I spent the next month going “Those people are f***ed up!” any time anyone asked about the book. That book filled my need for confound and discomfort for a good year!

      • franhunne4u June 6, 2014 at 12:35 pm #

        I will admit I do read a so called “good book” now and then, too – but I am always disappointed!

  6. babazoobee June 5, 2014 at 10:53 pm #

    I’m with you. Not ashamed to admit that I loved the Hunger Games, the Harry Potter series, and A Series of Unfortunate Events. Also enjoyed listening to Skullduggery Pleasant on audio book, and happily adore the young children’s series Junie B. Jones. It cracks me up!

  7. Chris June 6, 2014 at 1:38 am #

    Pplltt on them… I just read the Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman and I’ve read the Book Thief twice. I’ve gotten more out of some YA books than I have from reading “adult” books. Who know where a life changing idea will come from. Besides reading YA is a great way to say in touch with my Girl Scout Troop.
    Chris =]

  8. Sparrowgrass June 6, 2014 at 8:25 am #

    What rubbish!

    YA literature is wonderful, varied and splendid.

    I also like that in YA literature, sex has to be handled carefully rather than just something that authors put in to liven it up. I hate gratuitous sex scenes in books!

    I don’t care what age of reader an author had in their mind when they wrote it, nor who the publisher thinks they should sell it to. Why would that matter to anyone?

    Thanks for posting on this.

  9. Joy M Newcom June 6, 2014 at 12:52 pm #

    Agreed. Hear, hear!

  10. Lori-Anne June 8, 2014 at 3:21 am #

    The author of that article is missing out on so many wonderful books! Too bad for them!

    I loved how you added the picture of the dedication from the Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe. I started reading YA again with that exact book, reading it with my DD! We moved on and read the Percy Jackson series. Then I fell in love with Donita K. Paul and her Dragonspell series, and now I am enjoying The Legends of Karac Tor series by D. Barkley Briggs (although it starts off ‘meh’, but you need to continue to book 2!) And my DD wants me to read the Sisters Grimm series after she finished them!

    Reading YA is a great way to bond with my tweens and read some fun imaginative literature!

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