life and times of angel

YA Outside the Blogosphere: A Love-Hate Relationship

Earlier this morning, a post went up on the notorious celebrity blog Oh No They Didn’t! regarding the casting for Beautiful Creatures. Not so surprisingly, much of the negativity was directed towards Cassandra Clare and her various series. (ONTD has a long history of doing this.) I found that to be strange, considering the subject of the post was a completely different series that had nothing to do with Ms. Clare. Some comments were on-topic, but ran along the lines of “OMG EMMA [Thompson] RUN AWAY FROM THIS BOOK.”

I’m used to the snarky, boisterous style of commenting on ONTD, having been an LJ user for the last eight years, but many of the comments on this post did bother me. So many negative comments were exchanged over Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone, which I will wholeheartedly admit to loving. Others were bemoaning the “poor quality” of YA fiction, and lashing out at authors because of their religion/friends/connections/blog reviews/etc. It’s a rough world off the friendly shores of YA book blogs.

There is a certain stigma attached to YA fiction and the people that populate it. Regardless of the success of Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games, teens and adults alike still seem reluctant to admit that they like these books. I don’t even work in a bookstore, but if I had a dollar for every time I heard “Oh, they’re not for me…they’re just for my [insert younger family member here]” coupled with a nervous look, I’d be living it up in a NYC penthouse. Everyone wants to read the next big thing, but as soon as it’s shelved in the teen section, it becomes something you have to sneak to the cashier under the latest Stephen King. Even the AV Club talks about John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars as “Green’s breakthrough out of the young-adult ghetto” (not to mention the accusations of pretentious behavior from some readers on different sites).  Ghetto? Really?

ONTD comments are some of the most visible signs of this love-hate relationship with YA. It’s almost as if YA is a trainwreck that people can’t look away from, even as they criticize its appearance and the way it crashed. I’m sure many of us have been on the receiving end of perturbed looks once people catch a glimpse of what we’re reading, especially if we’re over 18. That kind of judgment isn’t fair.

This is not to say that all YA is good. Every genre has its weak hitters, as well as books that blow everything out of the water. A book that I adored with every fiber of my being may turn out a vilified mess for another reader. Different perspectives make the world go round, et cetera et cetera, but the general perception of YA is sad to witness. Again, if I had a dollar for every time I saw a comment dismissing YA authors as “fat, lonely fanfic writers,” I would probably own a gazillion puppies. The backlash for a female author writing romance? Even worse. Writing is a brave and noble profession, and it is disappointing to see all the hatred.

What prompts this kind of reaction? It’s easy to say “jealousy,” but I think it goes beyond that. The internet has a way of making people believe that they can say anything without consequence. YA is the favourite target because of its visibility. It’s easy to hate on a book when no one else can see beyond your username. Most of us in the blogosphere are cocooned by fellow readers and our love for the genre, so we don’t see much of the outside reaction. And when we fall into bashing other bloggers or authors, well, we can’t blame the general public for the way they view the YA fandom, authors and readers alike. On the other side of things, people also seem to think that everyone in the YA fandom LOOOOOOOOOOOVES each other and gives positive reviews just for existing. Truly critical reviews (even written for fun) become more difficult to find.

As readers (both in and out of the YA fandom), we passionately defend our favourite stories. But we cannot expect everyone to agree with us. We can’t all like the same things. It’s okay to disagree, but it’s never okay to just blindly hate on something without giving it a fair shot. If any of us (again, in and out of the fandom) want YA to be taken seriously, then we should strive to create beautiful stories and vibrant characters. If we’re unhappy with what we see being lauded in our bookstores, then it’s up to us to patronize the books we appreciate. And if you don’t like a book, it’s perfectly okay to keep quiet and let other people form their own opinions. (Despite the open gates of the internet beckoning you to shout it out loud.)

I love reading, and I love YA fiction, and I appreciate and look for excellent writing. Contrary to popular opinion, none of these things are exclusive.

What are your thoughts on YA fandom and its presence in popular culture? What would you say to someone who doesn’t think YA is worth reading? 

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11 replies »

  1. Wonderful post. I agree completely. I see adults pretending not to browse the YA section at B&N all the time. I think it’s silly. I have actually asked numerous times for my B&N to stock certain YA books that they don’t have. I do see what you are talking about though, people saying adults shouldn’t be able to check teen books out of the library, and other such nonsense. Thanks for post.

  2. I do think there are a lot of problems with many YA books today, but I think there are many YA books that are completely awesome too. I don’t understand why people think the YA genre is less than any of the other genres out there. A book isn’t its genre. An author is not their book.

  3. From the author’s point of view, there’s also the question from friends and even family, asked too many times for comfort, and with a certain amount of innocence (ignorance?): “Don’t you want to write an adult novel someday?”

  4. YA will always be a confused world. It’s like a pop star that gets famous so quickly and then has to go into rehab. YA blew up in a short span. I remember going to the library at 13 and only finding picture books, chapter books, the “classics” and Nancy Drew. Plus some Judy Blume. Now I got to BN and YA books are leaking into regular fiction releases.

    I am a firm believer that outsiders hate success. I hate Kim Kardashian and everything she stands for. I hate the Jersey Shore for the same reason. I don’t believe they deserve their success. Some people believe writing For kids is easy, so why do we get such hype?! Yet I have friends who vehemently defend this culture to me. It’s twisted that they then scoff at YA.

    But then, I read so many blogs where the blogger scoffs at YA like something not good enough to grAce their reading palette. Then why read it if only to hate on it oh so nastily?
    on another note…
    We do have some super successful books, and this is why the outside world thinks its an easy cash machine. Katie Crouch anyone? It’s this kind of thinking that gives YA a bad name. Like its easy. Anyone can do it, so all the adult writers are stepping in to put in their 2 cents in the genre jar.

    I say we keep writing the best stories we know how, the very best way we know how.

    Everything else is out of our control.

  5. I’m always confused whenever someone bashes ANY genre as a whole, though I do agree that YA has been getting more of its share lately. Like all other genres, it has some amazing books and some horrible books, and people’s opinions on which are which will vary. Not liking one or two doesn’t mean the entire genre is horrible, and vice versa.

    When it comes right down to it, people should simply read what they like and stop judging others for doing the same. The entire reason we have so many genres and sub-genres is because each of them speaks to a certain type of person. Just because one doesn’t speak to me doesn’t mean it won’t speak to you. We should all be fine with having different opinions. I think we also need to be mindful that when we criticize a book, we focus ON the book specifically (plot, characterization, writing, etc.) and not make sweeping generalizations about the author or genre as a whole.

    And no one should *ever* feel bad for liking a book, end of story!

  6. I can only agree with all of you. I am living in Austria and here we have a very limited selection of YA books – especially English ones. When I was a teenager there were no English YA books available and very few German ones. German YA titles are still very rare but the selection of translated English YA titles is growing but the are still filed with the children’s books and I can understand that teens do not want to buy their books from the kids department when they are finally old enough to no be kids anymore.
    In the English department the YA selection is not huge but the main titles can be found, like Cassandra Clare’s and Maggie Stiefvaters books.

    I think that writing children and YA literature is (often) harder than writing adult literature because children are way more critical in what they like. I started reading mostly English YA books because I like them as much as adult books and sometimes even more.

    It is sad that people feel the need to mock people reading this genre because they miss out on amazing stories and I also think it is unbelievably sad that people tend to judge people reading YA books or people who are admitting that they like YA books. I am always super glad when my favorite bookstore is packed and I can wittness people browsing the shelves and giving recommendations to others.

    I know that the society tends to judge people but I really hate it that I often have to defend myself for loving to read (children, YA and adult) books.

  7. I agree with everything you say, dear. I think the stigma is finally starting to go away a little bit. More people are reading–or willing to try. I usually don’t even tell the person it’s YA, just say, “You MUST read this!!” lol! And they love it…and then they know.

  8. I hate to admit that until about a year ago I was one of those sneaky adults scanning the YA shelves.

    There is this notion floating out there that reading YA as an adult is beneath you. Like watching cartoons. Those things are for children and children alone.

    I don’t know if that stigma will ever be truely broken if we keep believing that things for children are for children alone and can’t be appricated by an adult.

  9. I know I’m late to commenting on this post but better late than never right?

    All cards on the table – I used to be a total literature snob. I only read classics and “quality literature”. I could probably blame this on a million different things, but the reasons don’t matter. I read (and loved Harry Potter) but I wouldn’t have been caught dead walking down the YA section of my local bookstore. Then I started blogging and I began to find people who LOVED all the nerdy things I did and who weren’t afraid to show it and those people began recommending me books and some of those books were YA. And some of those books were the most amazing books I’ve ever read (notable examples Delirium and anything by John Green) they put many adult books to shame. And once those flood gates were open there was no turning back. I broke down my snobbery and embraced YA and just kept going giving into my love of Star Wars novels and cheesy mysteries. I still read classics and other adult fiction but now there’s a lot more variety to my reading. Best decision ever.

    It drives me mad the way people turn up their nose at YA literature. I am the first to admit that there is some horribly written YA books but there is also horribly written adult books. Why are we (as in society) so quick to forgive the “bad” adult fiction but hold the “bad” YA fiction over the genre for all time. We were all teens once and I don’t know a single adult that doesn’t have strong memories and emotions about that time. I think you’re kidding yourself if you don’t. Once, while working at a bookstore, I struck up a conversation with a customer who loved Clive Barker. We must have talked for a half an hour about our mutual love of this great writer. Then I recommended him Abarat (which is the teen section) and he laughed and said “I don’t think that’s for me.” I don’t understand. If you loved everything he’s written and think he’s brilliant why do you doubt his talent now?

    So I think the best solution is to just keep fighting the good fight. Keep expressing our love for quality YA fiction. It’s what worked for me. I wanted to know what people were excited about, what it was people loved so much. True I found it all through the blogosphere but I think the same thing would have happened if I met all you wonderful people in real life. It’s what got me to pick up the books and then the stories took care of the rest.

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