give YA more credit, please!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

When I was working at a bookstore two years ago, I had a co-worker, who was shelving books with me in the YA section. He complained that he shouldn't be stuck in that area because, and I quote, "Who reads these crap anyway? It's all whiny, over the top teenagers complaining about their sad, dramatic lives." You're off better reading "grown up" books.

There have been times also when some read and finish a good YA novel and they end up falling in love with it. Then, when they ask what genre it is, and they realize it's Young Adult, they are always shocked, as if unable to believe it.

This surprised me a whole lot at that time. I didn't even know that people looked down upon the YA genre. What was even more surprising was the fact that that wasn't the first and certainly wasn't the last time I heard of the same exact remark. First of all, what makes a "grown up" book a grown-up book anyway?? I don't get it. Now I wonder, why do people look down on YA?

There are different misconceptions about YA; that they are silly, predictable, over-the-top, and just full of high school drama. Some believe that it's all about cliques, underage parties, underage drinking, and boyfriends. While YA books do in fact have those aspects, it doesn't really mean that that's what they are all about. Perhaps the people that say these remarks have never actually read a good YA book in their lives. Do they even know that classics like Ann of Green Gables, Little Women, and The Giver by Lois Lowry are actually YA novels? Perhaps not. And maybe if they read novels like Wintergirls, Willow, Thirteen Reasons Why, The Book Thief, they might actually realize that YA is so much more than what they give it credit for.

These books, among so many others, have served as meaningful tools. These books tell the stories of REAL people, going through real and sometimes, difficult, scenarios, stories, and situations. Because of these stories, these books are able to speak directly to their readers. To me, a good YA novel has the power to shape and mold teenagers by giving the age group important and thought-provoking life lessons. These are books that can make an impact. And as if those reasons weren't enough, anyone can read YA, no matter what the age. In fact, I feel as though parents can also benefit from these stories. These stories that may or might have already changed someone's life, that may have served as an eye-opener, and that may have served as an inspiration. Simply put, YA books are important and are able to make a difference too.

Now I'm not saying that everyone should like YA, because I know it's not exactly for everyone. I guess all I'm just trying to say is, I really don't like it when people generalize. I wish people were a bit more open-minded and respectful towards the genre, or any other for that matter. I wish people would give more credit to it because it is deserving of it. More specifically, I can only hope that this discrimination against YA would also stop. Give the genre a chance first, before judging. For me, what I know for certain is, I will continue to read and support it, no matter what other people say or think. And I sincerely hope you do too.


  1. Maybe it's because he's a guy?? YA readers seem to be MOSTLY female. Or maybe he was tired of all the teen girls drooling over Edward and Jacob NOT him?? I think YA's actually getting a lot of respect these days - maybe too much for some people :)

  2. Thank you for writing this post, seriously. Although I have to admit there are some titles that do feature less-than-stellar plots and characters, there's truly some great YA out there that can be thought-provoking and life changing, while not fitting into the adult genre at all (The Book Thief always seems to come to mind. xP).

  3. I think it really depends on the story line itself for me. I am a 40 year old mother of two teenage boys, so some YA is just too immature for me.....

  4. Like you said, not every book YA is good and meaningful but I have to agree it annoys me too when people look down on it

  5. Good points.

    I read mostly YA, but I've gotten frustrated lately. It seems like it's the new bandwagon that everybody has to jump on (thanks to the success of authors like Stephenie Meyer, I guess). For every really great YA title, it seems there are about 10 (or more) really mediocre ones; and that's too bad, because I think there's a lot to be explored in the genre.

  6. Preach it, girl! :)

    I'm not a huge YA reader, but some of my favorite books are YA.

  7. Hey, YA readers makes my heart feel like I'm always 16 even I'm 24 now.It's like makes me feel young forever ;p

  8. I think YA gets much love and respect and they are a hit or miss for me. And there are some that read for the young but I feel makes bad decisions sound like good ones. eg. Thirteen Reasons but of course I know its my opinion.

    YA definitely has its place.

  9. @Susan: Ha ha, it could be because he's a guy. But then again, I've heard of women bash YA too. Eh, like you said it's not for everyone ;)

    @Linna: Exactly my point. Thank you! I guess what I'm also saying is, I'd hate it if I missed out on amazing reads just because I judged it beforehand, based on its genre.

    @Julie P: It definitely depends on the story, thank you :) I guess what I'm saying is that, generalizing an entire genre is a bit unfair. That goes with every genre too, not just YA. There are some YA books that are mainly JUST for teenagers, but then there are some YA novels that can be for everyone too. I'd just hate it when people assume based on generalizations.

    @maytagger: Yeah, not EVERY book is meaningful, I definitely agree with that.

    @Anonymous: I'm sorry you think so.

    @La Coccinelle: I totally get what you mean. There are some really great, amazing YA reads, and then there are the less-than-stellar ones. Sometimes, these ones give YA a bad name, making some readers stay away from the genre. Like you said, it's unfortunate, because there's so many things to be explored in it still.

    @JessiKay89: Well, I hope I didn't come off as preachy, but thank you ;) Some of my favorite books are in YA too, like The Book Thief. And I think because people look down on YA so much, that they end up missing out in the end.

    @Darlyn: YA definitely makes everyone feel young, regardless of our true ages :)

    @Marce: I totally get what you mean with 13ReasonsWhy. However, I think that the message in the book isn't that bad decisions (committing suicide) are good ones. I think its message was more targeted towards us readers -- that we should be careful and be nice to others, because we never know if they are fighting a hard battle. I guess it also makes readers more aware of suicide -- knowing that it is such a sensitive subject -- and its negative effects.

  10. I think one of the biggest issues facing YA right now is saturation. It is one of the fastest growing genres since the HP explosion and it's getting a lot of attention in the media. Add the Twilight series to that mix and now we have a genre that is under real scrutiny. Unfortunately, Vampire fiction is all the rage and some really poor writers are capitalizing on Twilight's success. Furthermore, Twilight just wasn't that well-written. To me, The Host is a far-superior work, but Twilight exploded and is the more prominent series.

    So, the problem YA has is that not only is it in the limelight, but that the current "spokes-novel" for the genre is a poorly-written, teenage emo love story. That's all the mainstream is really seeing, so the newer good works (see Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan) AND the older classics, are being overshadowed by pap.

  11. +JMJ+

    I read Romance steadily for years, and I'm honestly surprised to read that YA books are getting the same slurs that Romance novels usually do: that they're predictable, over-the-top, indulgent, formulaic, childish, mindless, escapist, etc. While I can understand those charges being leveled at Romance (while disputing them, of course!), I'm a bit bewildered to read them about YA.

    Perhaps the Twilight phenomenon is a factor in the way people perceive such a sprawling genre of incredible variety. (I can't believe they've forgotten Harry Potter already!) For me, "YA" evokes happy memories of discovering Newbery Award winning literature: the educational adventure in From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (E.L. Konigsburg), the dystopian world in The Giver (Lois Lowry), the stark survival story in Island of the Blue Dolphins (Scott O'Dell), the intergalactic space journey in A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L'Engle), the painful coming-of-age in Dear Mr. Henshaw (Beverley Cleary), the urban legend come to life in Maniac Magee (Jerry Spinelli), and so on! I've been riding on that initial high for over ten years. (Obviously! LOL!)

    Last summer, when my mother ran out of "grown up" books to read, she asked me to recommend something she might like. My picks were both YA. At first she was hesitant, not thinking she could get anything out of "children's books." Let's just say that she gave them a fair chance and is more enlightened about YA these days. ;-)

  12. @Tyrie: My thoughts, exactly. I think that mainstream YA has caused such an "uproar" that people are starting to get sick of it. I guess we can compare it to mainstream music. Now I am not much of a hip-hop person, so I can not give valid reasons on this argument. But to me, hip-hop music and culture has been ridiculed over and over again because of what's been playing on the radio today. Ex: Lil Wayne.
    In a lot of ways, I feel that it's similar to the YA genre. It is unfortunate that the general idea of YA is about high school, cliques, etc.. and in a lot of ways, I see why. Like you said, it is because people have just been seeing that the highly recommended ones (and usually bestselling!) are the less-than-stellar ones.

  13. @E: Please read my comment to Tyrie, it's for you too. haha. ;)

    I feel also that in a lot of ways, books like Twilight have become the new face or the new and fresher model to represent the genre. Unfortunately, some people don't really mind if it's not exactly a high quality face, as long as it sells. Maybe that's why people look down upon YA; because all they see is the exterior. They see the pimped out model. I can only wish it gets fired and YA gets a new one. LOL

  14. +JMJ+

    I must be more sheltered than I thought if Twilight became the pimped out model and I never realised! ;-)

    But I had thought that a genre as broad as "Young Adult" would get more respect. I mean, "Vampire Romance" is specific enough as a label to have people turn up their noses at the books which bear it without looking like complete ignorami; but slamming the whole world of "Young Adult" books is like slamming the whole word of "Contemporary Fiction"!

    Then again . . . When novels in general first started becoming popular, they weren't very highly regarded, either. They were considered childish, unchallenging stuff for people who couldn't handle harder reading (or for simple women--LOL!). So this phenomenon isn't new and YA can definitely ride it out.

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  16. Tyrie said...
    Well, maybe the new "Hobbit" movie will turn some of this attention to one of the old classics ... people forget that Tolkien's works were considered the "YA" works of their day - hard to believe, but true. Just today, I posted The Hobbit as my #3 top 10 twentieth century novel. It is an incredible work in regard to both content and style.

    Now, here's the question: what contemporary YA works could make such a list 90 years from now???? Will a mainstream readership ever hear about them?

    I'm not trying to be cynical, as there are some deserving works in YA, I think the point that Jillian and I are both making is that the mainstream hears Twilight, Twilight, Twilight, and many of the better YA works - ones that YA readers know about - are drowned out by Twilight-mania.

  17. +JMJ+

    Tyrie: I think Madeleine L'Engle's novels have enough of that "timeless" quality. They're not as dated as they should be. Then again, they're not contemporary any longer, are they? LOL!

    How about Gary Paulsen's books? Brian's stories have been popular since the first Hatchet, and I think it's safe to say that as long as there are boys, there will be a demand for Survival Stories. (Or are these books also old enough to make my "guessing" merely the stating of what is obvious? =P)

    I'll have to think about your question some more. It's a good one? =)

  18. Tyrie, awesome question that really got me thinking. Honestly, there's no such "current" YA books that automatically popped into my head. I agree with Enbrethiliel that perhaps A Wrinkle In Time is a good pick. I guess it's not as current as well, Twilight, but it's not really that outdated either.

    There's also some good YA fantasy ones that come to mind. Of course, there's the Harry Potter series. I think regardless of how people feel about them they will be a classic 90 years from now.

    Another that come to mind is The Book Thief. I think this is based on my biased opinion though. However, I truly feel it will be a classic, if only if it gets more attention from readers. *crosses fingers*

    How about you? What are some titles you can think of?

  19. Young Adult books are just not my cup of tea apparently because I don't understand the hoopla over it. You can say all you want but I do think that the themes in YA lit is just so... dramatic even though it shouldn't be!

  20. Anon - I'm sorry you think that way

  21. I read YA sometimes, I read Tomorrow When the War Began the other day, and I love the Harry Potter books. I like reading the classics in this genre as well, Anne of Green Gables, Little Lord Fauntleroy (which I finished for the the first time this year and loved). A Wrinkle in Time is fabulous too!!!

    My only reservation isn't about the genre. Recently I have noticed a lot of books that are only YA, and I am curious abut adults that only read YA. I enjoy YA absolutely, but don't people get bored reading only one genre all the time? I would that's for sure.

    It's funny hearing The Book Thief refered to as YA - in Australia it was marketed to adults, its not considered YA

  22. Becky - thanks for clearing it up. I thought you were simply hating on YA readers.. sorry about the confusion! Well, now I do agree with you I think I would be bored too if I only read one genre. That is primarily why this isn't just a YA blog.

    Oh and when The Hobbit was released, it was considered YA too.. nowadays, it's marketed for adults/fantasy I believe.