A 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.