Read What You Want Without Shame

06 Jun

City of Heavenly FireA piece from Slate made its way around Twitter in a flash yesterday. It’s titled, Against YA: Read what you want. But you should feel embarrassed when what you’re reading was written for children. The title should have clued me in that I was about to read something inflammatory to raise numbers, which is why I’m not including a link. I only read it because an author was tweeting about it and I was confused. I thought reading it would help. I was wrong. I still don’t understand the tweets and I’m angry that someone has the audacity to tell people how they should feel.

No one gets to tell you how you should feel about anything. Feels are an automatic response. How you deal with those feelings once you recognize them is a different story. I didn’t spend ten and a half years working with teenage boys reinforcing that it is NORMAL to feel angry when someone pisses them off to sit back and have an adult tell me I should feel embarrassed for reading Young Adult fiction. No. No one dictates my feelings.

My taste in books is like my taste in music, a little of everything. I never read young adult when I was the “appropriate” age for it. I never read Sweet Valley High or Flowers In The Attic like other kids my age. I went from reading Judy Blume and Nancy Drew to Sidney Sheldon and Judith Krantz. My favorite book is V by A.C. Crispin and I read it in seventh grade. So what if I read the genre now? If I want to read The Mortal Instrument series, I’m going to read, enjoy it, be satisfied with the ending Cassandra Clare gave us, and not allow anyone to shame me for it. If I want to stand outside Barnes & Noble waiting for them to open so I can buy the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series, I’m going to.

I sat here after reading the article wondering, why am I writing? I never meant to write Young Adult, but I did. My intention has always been to make it accessible to adults, too, but someone says they should feel embarrassed for reading it? Then I remembered my former clients who serve as the inspiration for my protagonist. I’m writing it for them. I’m writing it for me. I’m writing it for anyone who wants to read it.

What does it matter what we read and enjoy? Some people turn their nose up at those who only read comics and graphic novels. Why? It’s still reading. There’s a plot. There’s a hero. There’s a villain. It’s elitist and judgmental to say one genre is better than another. We prefer one genre over another. That’s it. It’s like music. No one genre of music is better than another and I’ve never let anyone shame me for liking Barry Manilow.

Read what you want and forget what anyone says about it.


Posted by on June 6, 2014 in Uncategorized


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4 responses to “Read What You Want Without Shame

  1. gdwest123

    June 6, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    Absolutely agree Debi. Lots of adults love Harry Potter books, I don’t but they do, and why shouldn’t they enjoy them? I also like Raold Dahl, and it certainly wasn’t written with adults in mind

    • Debi Smith

      June 6, 2014 at 3:15 pm

      I happen to love Harry Potter. And Percy Jackson. And the Kane kids. A well-written adventure is always worth reading no matter what. And what of the authors who dabble in children’s books, YA fiction, and adult fiction? Variety is the spice of life!

  2. worldsofwoodward

    June 6, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    I only have a second, but this topic actually got my dander up a bit. Righteous indignation flaring to about a seven on the one to ten righteous indignation scale. Here’s why: some of the most insightful and profound stuff I’ve read has been written within the thin volumes shelved in the YA section of the library. There is sometimes more wisdom and truth and honesty about the human condition contained within them (the sort of stuff which strikes to the marrow when you’re not looking), than in books written strictly for “adults.” Without all the layers of pretense and ego and self-congratulatory prose, ideas are distilled down to their most basic elements. Of course, “not always the case,” applies to all books for all ages in all genres. The folks who most vehemently argue against this point are usually either too dim to question what they’re being told, or just smart enough to be arrogant about how smart they are–elitist. Thus, when someone like this Slate fellow makes these sorts of inflammatory, black and white statements, they will always be wrong part of the time. Said statements are as absurd as they are incorrect. If it was, in fact, merely done to incite a frenzy of debate, mission accomplished! Okay, I’m finished ranting now. Words such as balderdash, poppycock, and twaddle spring to mind, attempting to spark further ranting, but I will resist them for now. Cheers. 🙂

    • Debi Smith

      June 6, 2014 at 3:23 pm

      I love those words that came to your mind! I agree wholeheartedly that YA will distill things down to their essence. Sometimes my brain can’t process all the prose in some adult fiction. Case in point, I struggled through Paint It Black by Janet Fitch because it was so full of metaphors. I think up to 3 in one paragraph. If it had been a few months ago when I was still having problems with brain fog, I would’ve just chucked it. I didn’t. It was a good story, just a lot of muck for me and I had to wonder if it was on purpose because the main character was immersed in the lives of different types of artists. I don’t know, but I kept at it and was glad I did. Two books later, I’m reading The Fault In Our Stars and I can’t put it down. The subject matter of both intersects, not the same or quite similar, but near enough. John Green did a wonderful job telling a story of living while dying. I think it’s the best I’ve read within that subject matter.


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