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?
Categories: life and times of angel