Art by Joon Mo Kang for the NY Times
There is an interesting item in today's NY Times Book Review. It touches upon the burst of outrage initiated by an essay in Slate by Ruth Graham. In it she poses the question: should adults should be embarrassed to read novels geared for the young adult market? You can read her essay here. And the Times item from today's Book Review is here.
I was too busy to really catch the recent debate myself and therefore I was curious as to what all the anger was about. So today I went to Slate and read the essay. And you know what? I largely agree with Ruth Graham. At the risk of having to dodge rocks thrown in my direction, I have to say: adults who spend most of their time reading YA, or at least certain YA books, are not reading at an appropriate age level. I know: it is better to read something rather than give up reading altogether. But, still, for an adult who enjoys good books, there are better choices out there for the mature mind. Some years back, I tried to find out what all the hoopla was about with "Twilight." I could barely endure getting past the first several pages. It was horrible writing. Truly awful. The worst romance novels are a better read. And, I confess to having read my share of those, too. In fact, the essentially YA bestseller of 1970, LOVE STORY, as bad as THAT was, was a better read. And, if the Twilight series were to comprise a good portion of an adult's reading list, I would have to think, "Well, I guess other books are just too complex."
And then there are books like The Book Thief. Was that really supposed to be YA? I think not. Doesn't matter. That is one of the most beautiful and poetic books I have ever read, bar none. So, am I dismissing an entire genre or just a portion of that genre? I guess I am dismissing a portion of YA books--the teen-romance portion. Don't get me wrong-- I love romance and happen to be married to my high school sweetheart, so I remember my own teen romances and those years clearly and fondly. But teenage romance is something I do not want to spend a great deal of time reading about. Been there, done that. And I also know adult romance is far more enjoyable--and interesting.
Another challenge I cannot do: Teen Tragedy. I cannot bring myself to read "The Fault in Our Stars" because as a mother of young adults, reading about young adults with cancer is the last thing I want to occupy my brain with. And I don't want to read about young adults in comas, nor young adults in car accidents, nor young adults in dystopian societies who are fighting for their very existence. Because any time I have to read about young people having their lives threatened or ended too soon, I project my own kids onto their situations. I worry enough about my own kids. I don't need to fret about fictional kids. It is also why I never watch movies where anything bad happens to kids or animals, but that is another discussion altogether.
Of course, this is not to say I would not enjoy writing YA novels or even Middle Grade novels. I would. I am working on a couple now. After all, I write picture books; I can hear the voices of my inner child very clearly. I can also hear the voices of my inner 13 year old and my inner 18 year old quite well, too, thank you very much. I guess that when I read, I prefer really listening to adults.