against “against YA”

Well, here I am posting about how I have spent time examining my likes and dislikes when it comes to entertainment and now an article on Slate pops up and tells me that I should be ashamed for enjoying these kinds of stories.

This article has a LOT of issues. It sounds like that the author has only read two children’s novels in the 1990s (YA Lit wasn’t even a genre then), and A Fault in Our Stars and a few other Hot Titles…and this is the breadth of her YA reading list. Other than that, she seems to only read books that she has been told are “classics”. And then proceeds to tell us how we shouldn’t enjoy reading, and that she doesn’t want to tell us what to read but, we are morons for enjoying “books written for children.”

The label of Young Adult is a marketing tool, not a genre. It usually just means the characters are teenagers and the content is appropriate for that age group (i.e. deeper than Children’s literature but perhaps not as graphic as adult). It has nothing to do with quality. Or reading level. It’s just a shelf in the book store or library. And that shelf is open to everyone, of all ages.

Mark Shrayber of Jezebl has a nice rebuttal piece

And we all know the label of “adult literary fiction” has it’s own issues.

But anyway, that is not the point. Instead of judging other people and what they read, perhaps Graham needs to look inward and talk about why she doesn’t enjoy books labeled as “Young Adult”.

I can tell you why I do not enjoy “Adult Literary Fiction”. It’s the same reasons I talked about in my previous post – many of them offer little to no hope for the characters. On page 1 of the book, the character is miserable. On page 700, the story ends and the characters are usually still miserable. This isn’t always the case, of course. I love reading the comedies of Christopher Moore. Or Steve Martin’s novels. I even liked Herman Koch’s “The Dinner” which was pretty twisted. But for me, if the ending leaves me unsatisfied, I feel like I have wasted my time.

Now, for other people, perhaps reading these stories is cathartic. Maybe they have lives that mirror the lives of the characters. Or perhaps they enjoy reading about people with this kind of tragic existence because it makes them feel better about their own lives. I am not going to tell them what they can and cannot read (and believe me, I have the power. I’m a librarian and people ask me for book suggestions. I don’t scoff or tut at their choices. I rejoice in their love of stories.)

Graham says that life is too short and there are many GOOD books to read. But I say that life is too short and if you are reading something you should enjoy it on some level. Far be it from me to understand why YOU enjoy a book. You are your own unique person, raised in a unique location by unique people…your life experiences will change the way you internalize the stories you read. How could I ever know how you will react to a story?

TL;DR – Read what you want. Love what you read. Embrace whatever genre you are a fan of and just revel in the power of a good story.

And if you’re stuck for your next book, ask your Librarian. We promise to find you something YOU will enjoy.

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