Young adult literature gets no respect. As John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars movie adaptation debuts to considerable critical acclaim, proud adult literature reader Ruth Graham and anti-YA snob would like us all to just grow up.
At least, that’s the impression I get out of reading her article in the Toronto Star
Most importantly, these books consistently indulge in the kind of endings that teenagers want to see, but which adult readers ought to reject as far too simple. YA endings are uniformly satisfying, whether that satisfaction comes through weeping or cheering. These endings are emblematic of the fact that the emotional and moral ambiguity of adult fiction — of the real world — is nowhere in evidence in YA fiction.
I posted this response in the Star’s comment section:
I can see that the author of this piece is proud of her reading history and relishes her favourite literary genres. I applaud that. It’s a shame that, in defending her love for the craft and sophistication of the books she likes to read, she feels the need to denigrate those books which don’t meet her standards, and those readers who read those books.
The number of straw man arguments and opinions masquerading as facts in this article is truly discouraging. “The emotional and moral ambiguity of adult fiction — of the real world — is nowhere in evidence in YA fiction”? Seriously? Has she not read Madeleine L’Engle’s “A House Like a Lotus”? Kenneth Oppel’s “Half Brother”? Marsha Skrypuch’s “Daughter of War”? That she would cheapen her argument with such hyperbole is one thing. That she would denigrate the work of these people incenses me.
Further, that’s just titles I came up with off the top of my head. I’m sure other readers can come up with even better examples.
Then again, if she doesn’t see the value of good YA, that’s her prerogative. I don’t have a taste for detective fiction, either, but I don’t denigrate those who choose to read and enjoy it. I find a lot of adult fiction boring, frankly. For me, there is little of the sense of wonder and discovery that you get in young adult fiction. The coming-of-age story that is practically endemic in YA literature is one of the most powerful stories around, and that is something all adults can appreciate, if they so choose.
This is, of course, just my opinion, but it is as valid as that of any other reader that truly and deeply loves what they read. More power to those who love books, in all their forms, I say. What I will not do is denigrate readers who read for whatever reason they want to read. You are not them. They are getting what they need from the books they’ve got, and we have no place to shame them for not living up to our standards.
That’s my initial response, anyway. However, after reading “Fellow grown-ups, at the risk of sounding snobbish and joyless and old, we are better than this”, I do have something to add. Who better to quote than C.S. Lewis, who said, “When I was ten I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”
Ms. Graham: grow up yourself and stop telling us what we shouldn’t be reading.
- We Move to Canada: memo to ruth graham: readers who try to shame other readers should be embarrassed by their narrow-mindedness
- My own earlier post, from 2006, Fairy Tales in Secret.
- IO9: Really? Are We Still Genre Shaming People For The Books They Like?