#YAShame

There’re probably a ton of posts around the blogosphere in response to the article on Slate.com about how adults should be embarrassed to read YA books. But whatever, I’m still going to write my opinion here for whoever wants to read it. Be warned: it may be ranty, and possibly, sweary, because I am a little angry right now.

Before I start writing up my response to that article, let me start by saying that it is perfectly alright to have an opinion on anything. It’s your opinion, we’re not in a dystopian society (or not yet, at least), so you’re free to think whatever you want. That includes feeling embarrassed about the kinds of books you read, or the kinds of movies you watch, or — anything. I mean, I’d definitely feel embarrassed if someone caught me reading Fifty Shades of Gray, which I haven’t and don’t intend to read, but I would NEVER tell someone to feel ashamed if they were reading it.

Just during dinner today, my sisters, my grandma and I had a really interesting discussion about how everyone is different (we had a really deep and ranty talk; it was great). What does this mean? It means that everyone has different opinions, and many may even have opposing views to yours. Does this mean you should bash them up about it?

If your answer was yes, then this post is not for you. So gtfo, please.

NO. 

You don’t bash them up about it, and you don’t make them feel ashamed. Which is exactly what this article is doing. So the author is embarrassed to be reading YA. Fine. But you don’t have to go and write up a whole post telling other adults that they, too, should be ashamed. And that bit at the end of the article? About Shailene Woodley saying she won’t be doing anymore teen films? I respect her opinion, but the way the writer puts it is like she is encouraging adults to go with the flow. Oh, look! More and more people are getting tired of YA. Even this celebrity is. So you should, too. 

“But crucially, YA books present the teenage perspective in a fundamentally uncritical way. “

From what I’ve gathered, the author of this post is not only criticizing adults who read YA, but adults who write YA, despite writing earlier on that “there’s of course no shame in writing about teenagers.” She is saying that the authors of these books write about teens in an uncritical way, because after all, the majority of YA authors are adults who are older than 25.

Which leads me to another point: how is it possible for this article-writer to say that it’s okay for adults to write YA, but not okay for them to read it? Is there really a difference, besides the former spending hours and days and months and possibly years writing these books? And what saddens me further is the amount of support the writer has received in the comments. Commenters went so far to call those grown-ups “pedophiles” for reading about teenage romance.

Is it not creepy that adults read romance novels written for and about teens?”

Unless you’re reading it to be aware of what your children or students are reading, it’s always struck me as kind of creepy. As I recall, many YA books have romances and at least making out scenes. A 30 year-old enjoying reading about teens making out is kind of pedo-y.

And more:

Awesome #slatetroll – “Reading, You’re Doing it Wrong” – but I’m here to agree.  If you’re an adult reading YA as fluff, rock on.  If you’re reading it as “literature” – oh come on now.  Get over yourself.  It’s not. “

He got the troll part right, but again, whether it is literature or not is completely one’s opinion. (What is literature anyway? Anything that’s old enough to be your great-great-granddad? But that’s completely straying off the topic.)

Thankfully, I have not completely lost hope in humanity yet. There were also many brave souls who defended the YA genre valiantly:

After reading the article, the one word that comes to mind is ignorance. To say we should be embarrassed or ashamed to read YA novels, only makes YOU sound stupid and foolish. Whether its Anne Boleyn, political science, or vampires…who really cares. The truth is no matter what the genre may be, its great to see people young and older passionate about these amazing stories, and wanting to read more, and wanting to share how the books made them feel.”

“Eh.  Not everyone’s “sophistication” in reading enjoyment continues to develop past high school.  Not everyone enjoys navigating complicated plot lines, symbolism, etc.  

Reading is better than not reading.  Read what you enjoy!”

I just want to state here that my grandmother has been an English teacher for more than thirty years. She’s taught English lit in school, and she’s giving English tuition classes even now. She coached me for my English literature IGCSE exam. She’s seventy-two, and I couldn’t be prouder. And guess what? She reads YA. All. The. Time. She barges into my room and asks for recommendations. She picks books from my huge YA bookshelf. She’s even read Twilight. I don’t see her dissing me for reading “trash,” or “juvenile fiction,” even when my dad tells me I should read something more meaningful.

But see? All these thoughts are subjective. Everyone has their own opinions, and everyone else should do their best to respect them. If you want to argue, go ahead. But do so civilly. Don’t try to dictate what others should think or feel. Please. If there’s something I’ve learned these past few years while being a book blogger and spending a lot more time on the internet, it’s that if you disagree with someone, don’t bash them up about it. I see it happening all the time. In comments on YouTube, on Goodreads, on articles such as this.

I’ve grown from being a very narrow-minded person, always determined to make people see my way of doing things, and then getting into petty arguments with them when they wouldn’t follow me, to someone who is hopefully more open-minded now. And though some may still consider me close-minded, I hope that this post will still hold some weight to what I’ve just said.

And one more thing? I’ll never grow embarrassed of reading YA fiction. Not even when I’m seventy. Just like my grandmama.

P.S. I welcome any and all disagreements. 

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10 thoughts on “#YAShame

  1. Amen sistah! Honesty, that article author is probably getting a promotion right how for all the traffic and discussions going on about that post. But the message what snobbish and extremely rude and those of us who love books and love readers in general know it won’t affect how we feel about our beloved genres.

  2. Most of me agrees with you very strongly, and I really think that that author needs to get off her high horse and let people read what they like. Saying adults can’t read YA is like saying “The Chronicles of Narnia” can’t be my favorite books ever (they are) because they were originally written for children. Or that I can’t go to the library just to sit in the picture book section and read those adorable and very often clever and creative picture books. I do that all the time!
    But a little bit of me thinks that, even though YA books are great, there are reasons why classics are called classics, and that they should not be ignored for more contemporary things. I’m not sure if that’s the issue here – perhaps the author is comparing contemporary YA with contemporary adult. Because I know that just as there are well written YA, there are well written adult books, and just as there are poorly written YA, there are poorly written adult books – so it shouldn’t make a difference, right?

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that there is a certain standard of what constitutes “good writing,” but genre shouldn’t define that. The difference between “well-written” and “poorly-written” is a bit blurry and really subjective, but it’s still there. We should all read as many good books as we can, regardless of genre!

    That sort of rambled, and I’m not even sure if that made sense. Oh well. Good post. 🙂

  3. I love the example of your grandmother! That’s such a great story about how reading YA has nothing to do with reading sophistication or how well YA books are or aren’t written but just that different people like different stories.

  4. Thank you for writing this post! I wrote one about this exact article today, and I was so frustrated. All I can think of is how sad her literary life must seem if she’s constantly reading books just to fulfill this sad idea that she’s an adult and therefore should read adult fiction. But in the end if that makes her happy, then by all means continue. Thanks for posting this!

    Amanda @ Of Spectacles and Books

  5. That article was such bullshit. I mean, seriously. Why the heck should someone have to be shamed for doing something they enjoy? For having a passion for something? (Um, unless that passion is for murder or something. Then that’s a no go lol).
    I feel like that Shailene example is a poor example to use in terms of saying people are “moving on from YA”. It’s just one person. And that might just be because she’s been doing a lot of YA films recently. So it’s kinda the same when people say they don’t want to read 10 dystopian books in a row.
    And that’s so cool that your grandma reads YA! I’m definitely going to continue reading YA for as long as I enjoy them too (which will probably be quite a while), and a resounding “whatever” to the haters 😛

  6. I don’t know why but I kinda understand the author of this article but the way it shamed the genre is what put people off (there’s a market for adult books, we’re too focus on YA). I, for one, would never be offended to read YA. It helped me conquered my reading snobbery back in the days. But it is indeed written for a certain demographic and it is for me what’s constitutes the attitude towards it. But personally, I don’t give a damn, when it comes to someone else’s opinion that I highly disagree, I just accepted the fact that it is his opinion and have mine.

  7. Pedophilia? Whatever. I guess that means that anyone who’s ever read and enjoyed Sense and Sensibility is a pervert. (That is a book that features two teenaged girls and their love lives, after all.)

  8. “30 year-old enjoying reading about teens making out is kind of pedo-y.” <— I'm sorry, I just find this way too funny. First of all, it's fiction, you can't be a pedophile about fictional people. Second of all, going by that logic, it would be majorly perverted and voyeuristic to be reading about people of any age doing anything sexual, and Adult books often have people doing sexual things.

    Anyways. Honestly, I don't feel inclined to take anything by anyone who says YA isn't "literature" seriously, because 1) they probably just want to feel important 2) they probably only know about the popular YA books (see how the author of the article only picked out popular books such as TFiOS, If I Stay, and Eleanor and Park?), which is obviously the way NOT to judge an entire genre made up of thousands of books and authors and 3) the Adult genre has books like Fifty Shades of Grey and "guilty-pleasure" reads like James Patterson books… If I were to judge the Adult genre by what books from it become popular, I probably wouldn't be very impressed either.

    Besides, the author of the article seems very pretentious and just trying to prove how "adult" she is, while also proving how not "adult" she is. And honestly, I feel sorry for her more than I am angry with her :/

  9. Ugh that article got me so mad. I hate people who think they have the authority to judge other people for what they do.

    I can see why she would think what she does but I feel like before writing a full article making a sweeping generalization about a very LARGE genre with many sub-genres and sub-categories, she should probably do some more research. Or maybe she has but it just wasn’t apparent in the article. Because I seriously don’t think the six or seven books she mentioned are representative of one genre of thousands and thousands of different books. Not that those weren’t all great books she mentioned but seriously, I just find it a bit offending how she forms this entire opinion on about ten YA books she’s read, and then continues to be all righteous and condescending about it.

    Honestly I’m a pretty open-minded person and it doesn’t get me all in a huff if someone believes something that I don’t. I won’t get mad if someone says something like “I don’t think adults should read YA, it’s weird” or something along that line. I may not agree with it but I can at least respect what they’re saying. What gets me mad is the air of snobbery, that condescension that tells she clearly thinks her opinion is superior that she can go so far as to tell people what they should or should not read. No. Just no.

  10. My friend and I had a conversation about this a while ago and we decided that we’re going to be the old ladies in the YA section embarrassing our granddaughters, while gushing over our book boyfriends 😉

    I hope they wouldn’t be embarrassed to be honest though.. I will be reading YA forever because I love it. And yes, I will also still be reading Adult, Middle Grade and Children’s books.

    Because eff you Ruth Graham, I’M AN ADULT AND I READ WHAT I WANT!

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