Grow Up And Read Young Adult: A Response to That Slate Article

Tuesday, June 10, 2014 12:49 PM
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Recently, an article posted on Slate concerning YA book reading habits incited some significant outrage in the book blogging community, and I would like to add myself to those angry numbers. Many bloggers and even The Washington Post responded negatively to this affront to all YA book bloggers. The Slate article, posted by the “lovely” Ruth Graham, claims that YA readers should be ashamed of their reading selections. She even goes so far as calling such reads as Divergent “transparently trashy stuff” that “no one defends as serious literature.” Besides making such outrageous generalizations, she goes on to say that she did not cry while reading The Fault in Our Stars because she is a grown-up. Well, folks, at the age of 23, nearly 24, I can proudly attest to the fact that I am not a grown-up. I cried like a baby while reading this emotional book about two teenagers suffering from cancer and finding love when they have almost lost all hope. If that makes me immature, naïve, or unsophisticated, then I will gladly admit to any of the above faults.

In fact, I have to come clean and confess that I only read young adult novels for “escapism, instant gratification, and nostalgia.” There are obviously no young adult books that explore deep, meaningful messages, and I should grow up and reach maturity already. Never mind that we all have experiences with many of the core issues featured in young adult novels, such as sexism, racism, homophobia, inequality, and mental health to name just a few. Also forget that, as humans, we have suffered our share of tragedy. We have experienced our first love and then first heartbreak. We have been down the same road all of these protagonists travel, whether they are moving to a new home and leaving behind old friends, or they are taking a difficult journey across a fantasy world that can be compared to the obstacles we all had to overcome. Let us disregard all of these significant messages because they are communicated through YA books. Therefore, how could an adult possibly understand? And also, how could I, as an adult, ever relate to a teenager’s problems? It’s not as if I was ever that age.

On top of that, why should I read books for pleasure? How dare I read books that I want to read. Instead, I should be reading books of a more sophisticated nature so that I don’t have to be embarrassed when reading in public, and I can boast about how well-read and cultured I am. No, this will not be pretentious in the slightest. Not at all. Never mind that I read a mix of books, all from different genres. How could I enjoy adult fiction and the classics while also frequenting the YA book section? Blasphemy! Yes, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters are among my favorite authors, but this fact loses significance when compared to my love for YA books.

Please excuse my sarcasm, but after reading Graham’s article, I was left with a bitter taste in my mouth. I cannot believe that anyone would attack someone’s reading habits, as Graham as so blatantly done. Not only has she stated that all YA book readers need to grow up, and join her at the grown-up reading table, but she has also insulted an entire genre that is well-loved and written by authors that devote as much energy to their writing as authors from other genres do. Why should she care what other people read? She says, “Fellow grown-ups, at the risk of sounding snobbish and joyless and old, we are better than this.” You hit the nail right on the head, Ruth. This article makes you sound “snobbish and joyless and old,” and you are not better than whatever “this” is. You are acting just as you have described young adult readers: childish. To me, this entire article was meant to cause an uproar, and the author is simply crying out for attention. I think instead of writing articles that bash others’ reading habits, she should spend more time considering some actual issues instead of spreading controversy and belittling others.

So, I call out to all of you YA readers. I ask you to flaunt your love for the YA genre. Never be ashamed of what you read! I have met others like Graham in the past, and I did not let their opinions affect my reading behaviors, and you should not either. There is nothing wrong with reading what you want to read, and no one should ever tell you otherwise. As for me, I will never apologize for my personal tastes in books, and I will continue to enjoy these books and be emotionally affected by the stories they have to tell. I am going to spend the same amount of time reading YA as I always have, and I will appreciate it all the more thanks to you, Ruth.

Other Responses to Slate’s Article on YA Books:
-“Slate’s Condescending ‘Against YA’ Couldn’t Be More Wrong – Young Adult Fiction Is for Everyone” from Flavorwire

7 comments:

  1. Can I just give you a standing ovation? *applaud* You should never ever ever feel ashamed for what you read. Do whatever you want. I don't even get why other people have the need to tell you otherwise. Why should I care whether someone reads a YA/adult/MG/comic book etc?

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    1. Exactly how I feel! :D I'm glad we're on the same page here.

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  2. I wonder if Slate knew how angry all us book bloggers were going to get about this! Shame on them though, everyone gets to read what they want when they want and how they want and if anyone doesn't like it they can keep it to themselves.

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    1. I can't help but wonder too. They had to know it would cause a big reaction, and maybe they wanted all the attention. I agree entirely though. Everyone should read what they want to read.

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  3. Yeah, that article was so condescending and snobby, I couldn't believe it. There's a difference between arguing that people should read widely and insulting an entire literary category. And she's forgetting the whole marketing aspect of the book world. How many so-called adult literary books would be considered YA books now? She also has a whole us versus them mentality which is really odd. Great post, I completely agree with you!! ~Pam

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    1. I agree completely! If the article had been about trying new genres and reading a variety of books, I wouldn't have cared so much, but the article went way too far.

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  4. Fantastically well said, Courtney! My thoughts exactly, but way better written than I ever could have managed. She struck me SO childish as well in her snobbish and condescending attitude. Why the heck does she care that adults are reading YA? And her belief that YA has no substance is just so ridiculous that I have nothing to say about it. I do think it was definitely a ploy to get attention and well, she succeeded, I guess.

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