There’s been a bit of a hubbub going on in the blogs and threads I follow, almost single-handedly inspired by this post (alongside a passel of less-than-savory Tweets from that article’s author). Personally, I find it all kind of maddening. Probably because I have issues with the whole concept of how a given author or publisher determines the genre and age-shelving for a given book, maybe because I went from Dick and Jane to ‘Salem’s Lot then back for a dose of Hardy Boys, Babysitter’s Club and a dash of Goosebumps (though I almost missed that last one, due to my age and the unique schooling situation I had), then heading on over to The Great and Secret Show. I was all over the literary landscape, and don’t feel bad about a single bit of it.
I am mostly in the camp of “Hey, if you’re reading, good on you. Don’t care what you’re reading, as long as you’re doing it.” There are a few exceptions (mostly when someone attempts to explain to me how Twilight and its sequels are representative of amazing literary talent and serve as grand tales of deathless love), but those are honestly more directed to the reader’s attitude than the material itself. I don’t see what the label on the cover has to do with the most important things about reading; I don’t see how those should reflect on your status as a human being, or if one should feel pride or shame when they read the last page and put the book aside.
What are the most important things about reading, you ask? Well, that’s probably a far deeper question than I meant it to be, but I figure the two top dogs should be entertainment and education. That’s why I bother reading anything, anyway; I want to be amused, or I want to learn something. Sometimes both (which is where my terrible addiction to Creepypasta comes from, I suspect. And the hours spent on Wikipedia that almost inevitably follow such binges.) Does this mean I’m going to take some flak because I had fun reading Michele Bardsley’s Broken Heart vampire-comedy-romances? Probably. Does this mean I should feel terribly guilty about it? No, I don’t think so. Ditto Harry Potter, Hunger Games, or The Dark Tower. All of those provided amusement of the flavor I wanted, when I wanted it, regardless of their intended audience.
I think what annoys me the most is the attitude that a book written for a younger audience is somehow automatically inferior. Thus implying that something written for (pause for fanfare and some serious golf clapping) SERIOUS ADULTS is somehow auto-magically better; I mean, really, folks. How many just-plain-bad adults novels have we read? (Often while twitching spastically when they’re considered amazing works of art by others.) How many trite, tidy, poorly cobbled together books would the original blog poster think are perfectly alright for any self-respecting adult to read without a drop of shame or self-loathing, merely because they’re marketed to an older audience? She bemoans that YA romances cause exclamations of “Oh brother,” or have her rolling her eyes at the “shivers of first love,” but I practically guarantee that one can find those same reactions (along with dialogue that is as cheesy – if not more so – than anything one will find in The Fault in Our Stars) in that charming section of paperback bodice rippers at the end of the supermarket. Oh, those don’t count, either, you say? Okay. Then go take a look at some Tami Hoag, or one of the other dozen thriller/suspense authors in a similar vein. Yep. It’s there. Or, to bring in my own personal idol, dredge up Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass and find yourself thrilling to Roland and Susan’s relationship. Or perhaps we’ll dig even deeper, go for a dose of Great Expectations‘ Pip, who is easily as mawkish and annoying as any Bella Swan, or do we need to bring up Lord of the Rings (which might itself be classified more in the YA field than the adult, if you ask me… which nobody did, of course) and Arwen and Aragorn?
Long story short, you can find those supposedly annoying traits of YA novels in just about every genre and on shelves everywhere from the children’s section to the “You Need a Valid ID past this point” back room; and finding those traits amusing, educational or otherwise entertaining shouldn’t be considered a mark against you as a person.
Enough babbling. Have your own opinions on the subject? Have some adult novel that drives you to fits for its “childish sensibilities”? Have a YA book that you think jumps beyond its supposed audience? Let us know in the magic box below. Until next time!